Thursday, 2 July 2015

Sur le Pont d’Avignon

by Sally Filho

The often mispronounced lyrics of this simple XVth century French song belong to Everyman’s knowledge of Gallic musical culture, together with two lines of Piaf’s ‘Non, rien de rien’ and half a line of ‘La Marseillaise’.  A group of students from The Portsmouth Grammar School will propulse  inter-cultural exchange between GB and France to a significantly higher level  again this summer by taking an original piece of mime/dance drama based on Hansel and Gretel to the world-famous Avignon Festival in July: exciting, daring and daunting it is, fun it should be, mundane it won’t be.

The Avignon Festival is a huge affair with an estimated one million spectators and participants involved over three weeks.  In the OFF Festival alone (the equivalent to Edinburgh’s ‘Fringe’), 1000 companies take part and 1600 plays and theatrical events are produced. The overall budget for this exhilarating Festival bursting with ideas and buzzing with invention is 13 million Euros. There are 3,500 performing arts professionals who also organize meetings, lectures and debates, thus creating a unique and splendidly creative event in European cultural life.  The Festival boasts to be “The Biggest Theatre in the World” and it probably is! 

There will be over 500 journalists present and, if they have any sense, some will wish to write about us.
So PGS will be represented in this International yet so very French occasion, and I am quite sure our pupils will do us proud.  The original lyrics of ‘Sur le Pont d’Avignon’ actually went ‘Sous le pont d’Avignon, on y danse, on y danse’, for under the arches  were popular drinking places where one could indeed dance, be merry and indulge in all sorts of pleasurable and illicit activities.  Our merriment will of course limit itself to what is right and proper; if we dance, it will be on stage or on the old bridge, not under it, or in the shadow of the impressive Palais des Papes.

Hansel & Gretel

The Grimm Brothers’ tale of abandonment is a story that speaks through the ages and has been told to millions of children for hundreds of years. It is a moral story that teaches young minds to be wary of strangers and to take care in the choices they make.

Company PGS have created a physical and experimental performance utilising hand-held projection and an original score played through up to date technology. The small ensemble presents their contemporary dark retelling of kidnap and betrayal through mime, dance and movement. Hansel and Gretel must learn of the dangers of life, but can they overcome the evil that has always been waiting for them?

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