Matilda Marseillaise turns 1 today!

Reading Time: 8 minutes

On 22 September 2017, Matilda Marseillaise was born. In the 12 months since her birth, she has taken you across Australia in research of all things French and francophone.

So in this article, we look back over her first year.

 

At the festival

Matilda Marseillaise has told you which shows you must see at arts festivals in all parts of Australia. She has written about MOFO in Tasmania, the festivals of WOMADelaide, Adelaide Festival and the Adelaide Fringe Festival, Sydney Fringe Festival and Melbourne Fringe Festival.

Matilda has also spoken to you about French festivals happening around the country like the Sunshine Coast French Festival, the Bastille Festival Sydney, the Bastille Festival Melbourne, Le Festival in Brisbane, Bonjour Barossa, the Adelaide French Festival and Shark Bay Rendezvous and So Frenchy So Chic – the festival which celebrates la joie de vivre française.

 

Interviews

Linked to these festivals, Matilda Marseillaise has brought you interviews with musicians, a puppeteer, and theatre directors, among others. She has spoken with people both well-known as well as those not as well-known but equally interesting. She has interviewed francophones from across a diverse range of domains such as Paul Perrin from the Musée d’Orsay in Paris, Kiya Tabassian, founder and director of the ensemble, Constantinople, Dimitar Gugov from the group Violons Barbares from Canada, Melanie Walters who played “La Flute de Pan” at Adelaide Fringe Festival, the Canadian comedian Al LaFrance who spoke about his show “I think I’m Dead” and  Ronnie Burkett, Canadian puppeteer about his show “The Daisy Theatre” which played at Sydney Festival.

 

There were also an interviews about perfume with Samantha from The Powder Room who led Masterclasses on the subject at the Adelaide French Festival; the singer Abby Dobson from the group Baby et Lulu; Frédérique Cournoyer Lessard, the French aerial circus artist from Club Swizzle; Féfé who played at So Frenchy So Chic 2018. Matilda has also spoken with the principal ballerina from Ballet Preljocacj, a French ballet company, who was in Australia for their version of Snow White which played in Melbourne and in Sydney.

The evil Queen in Snow White – image by Jean Claude Carbonne

 

Eating and drinking

There have also been festivals all about food and drink offerings: Effervescence champagne festival , Moët Grand Day also on the subject; Masterclasses and other events from the Tasting Australia program and Good France, the worldwide French dinner.

At the movies

On a cultural note, she has spoken to you about French and francophone films at the Sydney Film Festival and at the Alliance Française French Film Festival. She has spoken to you about an Australian film about life in France “Life is a very strange thing”, and about a film starring Omar Sy: Two is a Family. She had the pleasure of sharing her experiences of watching the film “Les Triplettes de Belleville” with the sounds reproduced live with Benoît Charest and his Terrible Orchestre de Belleville.

Music

There was a lot more than film soundtrack to entertain our ears over the last 12 months. Matilda was lucky enough to interview the renowned Youssou N’Dour, who came to Australia for a concert at the Sydney Opera House and also for BluesFest. She has listened to and spoken with Australian artists who play French or French inspired music: Mélange à Trois, Baby et Lulu, and the very original Coconut Kids who translated Australian classic pub songs into French for their Adelaide Fringe show “Aussie, Aussie, Aussie, Oui, Oui, Oui”. Well-known Australian singer Gotye presented a tribute to the Belgian Jean-Jacques Perrey at Sydney Festival. Caroline Nin took us on a trip to the Paris Lido with her show “Songs and Stories of the Paris Lido” that she performed at the Adelaide French Festival.

Youssou Ndour sitting on a step looking to camera

 

Francophone musicians from all around the world came for WOMADelaide, with Constantinople, the Violons Barbares and Lura among them.  Malian musicians Bassekou Kouyaté & Ngoni Ba, played to a very enthusiastic crowd at the Sydney Festival.

Violons Barabares perform at WOMADelaide in March 2018. Image by Matilda Marseillaise

 

Matilda got to speak with French rapper Féfé while he was in Australia performing “showcases” to publicise So Frenchy So Chic 2018.

 

For a more theatrical kind of music, there was also Bizet’s opera “The Pearl Fishers” performed by the State Opera of South Australia.

Ballet

Matilda was lucky enough to see Ballet Preljocacj’s production of “Snow White”, which played at the Sydney Opera House and in Melbourne. For a ballet with an even larger difference, crowds were treated to Gratte Ciel’s aerial ballet “Place des Anges” which covered WOMADelaide in tons of white feathers.

 

Let’s run away to the circus

Place des Anges, was a show of quasi ballet, quasi circus which leads nicely into other physical performances such as  “Club Swizzle” and the Cirque de Soleil’s arena spectacular “Toruk – The First Flight” inspired by James Cameron’s film “Avatar”. Matilda got to speak with francophone performers from these shows.

 

A night at the theatre

There was also theatre with Camus’ Caligula performed in English, “The Great War” a Dutch show based on letters from a French soldier in the trenches during the war. The show “The Far Side of the Moon” impressed us with its innovative set and Yves Jacques’ talent performing alone on stage during the entire show. We learned about the story of the very interesting Julie d’Aubigny, in the show “Deviant Women – Julie d’Aubigny”. And we got to see a puppet show that was most definitely not for children with the show “The Daisy Theatre” by Canadian Ronnie Burkett at the Sydney Festival.

Schnitzel from “The Daisy Theatre” ready for bed. Image by Prudence Upton

Schnitzel from “The Daisy Theatre” ready for bed. Image by Prudence Upton

 

Just for laughs!

We laughed at French-speaking or faux French comedians such as Al La France with his show “I think I’m Dead”, Marcel Lucont, and the show Cyranose, from which we spoke to Richard Maritzer, all of which performed at the Adelaide Fringe.

 

John Russell ‘Mrs Russell among the flowers in the garden of Goulphar, Belle-Île’ 1907 oil on canvas 79 x 100 cm Musée d’Orsay, Paris, held by the Musée de Morlaix, bequest of Mme Jouve 1948 “John Russell, Australia’s French impressionist” exhibition.

 

Art

There weren’t just performing arts either. Impressionist art was prominent in exhibitions in Australia. There was the very well received “Colours of Impressionism: Masterpieces from the Musée d’Orsay” which was in Adelaide for 4 months and we got to speak with Paul Perrin, one of the exhibition curators from the Musée d’Orsay the day before the exhibition opened. Currently on in Sydney, another French impressionist art exhibition is on but this time, the paintings are those of an Australian who studied and lived in France: “John Russell: Australia’s French Impressionist”.

Claude Monet: La Pie which was shown in Adelaide for the Colours of Impressionism: Masterpieces from the Musée d’Orsay exhibition

 

We also got to speak with Camille Chaumette and Agnès Mabille, exhibition curators while they were in Australia for the small exhibition of paintings by French photographer Michael Setboun. The photos comprised his “Paris Dark Light” exhibition and stayed in Adelaide for the weekend of the Adelaide French Festival in January.

France. Paris. 4th district. quai d Orleans along the seine river , on saint louis island. in the distance Notre dame Cathedral / Quai d orleans sur l ile saint Louis,

 

Another important exhibition of French works was that of Cartier: The Exhibition, which was on at the National Gallery of Australia in Canberra for a few months. Cartier Jewels dazzled the crowds.


HM Queen Elizabeth II
(wearing the Cartier diamond necklace
gift from the Nizam of Hyderabad for her wedding in 1947), 1953
© CAMERA PRESS/Baron

 

Special days

Matilda Marseillaise helped you celebrate the special days such as La Chandeleur and La Galette des Rois as well as the French, Belgian and Swiss National Holidays (sorry Québécois – I will include yours next year!) She also shared ideas for Mother’s Day, Father’s Day and Valentine’s Day.

 

Let’s drink champagne

And because no celebration is complete without champagne, Matilda let you know about all the events on the subject. She spoke to you about Champagne Fest at the National Wine Centre and of her experiences at its masterclasses. Matilda told you how and where to celebrate the Grand Moët Day in Sydney and Melbourne. She invited you to diners with a champagne focus such as the Mumm and Perrier-Jouet dinner or festivals which celebrate champagne like Effervescence which was on last month.

Champagnes and Sparkling wines enjoyed at the Masterclass at Champagne Fest 2017

 

Wine

And if we have champagne, then we also have wine, and events or even just places dedicated to it. Matilda spoke to you about the event comparing New and Old World wines, a night celebrating rosé called 15 Shades of Rosé and Rosé Royale, a bar dedicated to rose-tinted wine which opened in Sydney last year – and she spoke to its founder. More recently, Matilda encouraged you to try the new French cocktail inspired range from Australian brand Sofi Spritz.

 

The World Cup

And Matilda told you where to catch all of the French or Belgian World Cup Matches – even if they were played in the middle of the night Australian time. And of course, we all know that France won, which gave us yet another reason to celebrate!

 

La cuisine française

French cuisine has also had its moment. Matilda has spoken to you about Good France – the worldwide French dinner and about French restaurants awarded among the top 500 Australian restaurants according to the Australian Financial Review.

 

What have been your favourite moments over the last year? What subjects would you be interested in reading about over the next year?

 

REVIEW: The Great War at the Adelaide Festival

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Last week, Hotel Modern, a Dutch company, presented its show The Great War at the Adelaide Festival for the first time in Australia. The show is based on letters written by a French soldier to his mother during the war.

 

But The Great War is not a show like all the other shows about the war. Here, there are no actors on stage who transform into the characters. No, here the people are on stage solely to give life to the words of the soldier through the actions of miniatures filmed and then projected onto a large video screen. The Hotel Modern team is innovative. We have never seen a show like this before.

 

To transform potting soil into a war landscape is impressive. It’s a part of the genius of the production – to be able to make us believe that we are really looking at war moments while using every day objects.

 

Blowtorch fires made us believe that the forest (created from parsley) was really on fire. This added yet another level to this show – the bitter odour of the fire dispersed throughout the theatre, which added the sense of smell to those already engaged. A dirty aquarium allowed us to enter into the depths of the ocean. Icing sugar became snow and that snow melted with the help of a water sprayer which gave us rain. A dugout was made with cardboard stairs and miniatures like those you would see in a doll’s house – table, chairs, a bottle…

 

 

The flames on stage themselves are not that large, but filmed up close and projected onto the big screen are menacing. The poison gas seemed very realistic with boiling water poured onto dry ice which creates a fog which covers the ground and the soldier figurines.

 

A moving scene is created via mud and miniature boots worn on the fingers of the puppeteers, which gives us the impression that we are watching this soldier actually walking across the mud. This scene in which the soldier cannot help but walk across corpses, is portrayed with great realism. The dead are cut up action figures. We will never look at an action figure in the same way.

 

But it wasn’t just the visual side that was impressive in this performance. The man who produced the sounds on stage made us believe that we were really on the battlefield with his unique instruments using a mixture of real sounds (such as the recording of the firing of a machine gun) or created (the sound of a machine gun is also made by tapping xylophone sticks on a tin of marbles.

Image from the Adelaide Festival Centre website

 

Despite all of the positive aspects of the production, for me, the narration was disappointing. Firstly, we don’t know why letters which were written by a man are being read on stage by a woman – is it because he sent them to his mother so we should believe that it is his mother reading them on stage? At the beginning of the show, I had the impression that the narrator was speaking to children because of her tone. Several times during the show, I pondered asking myself whether making a show with miniatures is perhaps in and of itself disrespectful even if the people who are in the show don’t intend it to be.

 

In summary, it was an impressive, imaginative and moving show but it would perhaps be better with a different tone in the narration.

 

Matilda Marseillaise was a guest of Adelaide Festival.