From the author’s creativity to the stage, through ink on paper. Poche, the theatre of contemporary writing / 3 September 2015 / 3 September 2015

Mathieu Bertholet is the new manager of Théâtre Le Poche, for which Manolo Michelucci and BCV handle communications. Poche is a small theatre in the heart of the Old Town of Geneva, dedicated to the contemporary and avant-garde from its very beginnings in 1948 when it was still located in the apartment in Grand-Rue 19 of its founder, publisher Paul Fabien Perret-Gentil. Since 1961, it has occupied Rue du Cheval-Blanc 7. Its stage is a 7 by 7-metre square and there is seating for 130 spectators. Bertholet was chosen in March by the Fondation d’art dramatique, the municipal body that also runs the Comédie de Genève, to replace Françoise Courvoisier who had been at the helm of the theatre for the preceding 12 years.

Mathieu Bertholet’s project is very broad and ambitious but can be summarised in its main mission: to put contemporary writing at the centre of the Poche agenda. This means choosing only recently written and never before staged texts, involving the authors both in the laboratory activities the theatre promotes, and at every step of the play’s preparation, from actor auditions to choosing the director. To facilitate integration, Bertholet revives the figure of the “playwright”: expert writer for the stage and mediator between author and director.

The new management has introduced two very interesting innovations aimed at placing the focus on the written text: a reading committee and special production formats. In the first case, a reader committee of a dozen sector experts and representatives of partner theatres decides, through a lengthy but streamlined evaluation system and double reading, on which texts are to be staged, with the director having only a minimum right of veto. Secondly, the Poche season features two production formats only, which are known as Cargo and Sloop. The first corresponds to a conventional production: a text is selected by the reading committee and the manager chooses a director with whom an artistic team is chosen. The play is then staged at Poche, transformed for partner theatres and finally launched on tour. The second, Sloop, is a lighter format inspired by the production system of the contemporary German scene and the Royal Court Theatre of London. This format brings together three or four texts that are similar in theme or style, or different texts by the same author, and has them staged by the same team, including actors and director, with a more limited use of time and resources. By no means lower in quality, but more streamlined in their production, these plays call for a limited number of actors, shorter rehearsal times and staging for less than the typical 3-week run.

BCV immediately embraced Mathieu Bertholet’s project and, after listening to and sharing his thoughts, proposed foregrounding the importance of the writing itself by leaving numerous empty spaces in the graphics, gaps and lines left available for the potential creativity of others. We agreed on the idea that each sign traced in ink should offer a new idea with the right to be expressed; to move from the creativity of its author to the stage through that ink on paper. As Jérôme Baratelli, professor at the Haute Ecole d’Art et de Design in Geneva explained in commenting on the Poche campaign, “la lettre se transforme en une grille invitant à prendre la plume. Cette affiche soulève la question de sa propre utilité. On tente d’être dans l’action. On ne craint pas le vide, l’interrogation qui pourraient, qui sait, s’avérer plus efficaces en termes d’attractivité. Qui plus est, le visuel résume parfaitement la mission de ce théâtre, voué à la création de textes contemporains. C’est un graphisme contemporain, radical. Qui remue”.

We recommend this video (late March 2014) of the press conference held to present the theatre’s new manager.