In three solo pieces accompanied by a meal, Gurshad Shaheman presents an intense coming-of-age story, like a journey through treacherous rapids.
Born in Iran, Gurshad Shaheman’s tale unfolds as an intense coming-of-age story, like travelling through treacherous rapids. To make the journey with him is to endorse his father’s mask, enjoy his mother’s cooking, hold him in your arms, embrace the gift of his stories and his secrets, become an accomplice in a presentation by an incandescent performer. The journey, storm-tossed and captivating, will of course leave its mark.
Touch Me, Taste Me, Trade Me. In three solo shows that include a meal shared with the audience, Gurshad Shaheman recounts an Iranian childhood distinguished by a taciturn father, an adolescence in exile nourished by a courageous mother, a youth troubled by the discovery of desire. Tearing down barriers, dispensing with propriety, this charismatic man of the theatre discovers, between East and West, a very special relationship to the body. With luminous prose and powerful imagery, he gives free rein to his passions.
Produced by Festival Les Rencontres à l’échelle – Les Bancs Publics (Marseille)
Text, Concept and Performance Gurshad Shaheman
Dramaturgical Advisor Youness Anzane
Set Design Mathieu Lorry-Dupuy
Lighting Design and Technical Director Aline Jobert
Sound Design Lucien Gaudion
Video Design and Operation Jérémy Meysen
Sound Manager Jérémy Meysen
Assistant Director (for Trade Me) Anne-Sophie Popon
Movement Coach Ollivier Muller
Set Design Assistant Julien Archieri + Ava Rastegar
Co-produced by Pôle des arts de la Scène – Friche la Belle de Mai (Marseille) + La Ferme du Buisson – Scène Nationale de Marne-la-Vallée
Writing residency Les Bazis (Sainte-Croix Volvestre)
Presented with the support of Institut Français (Paris) + Service de coopération et d’action culturelle du Consulat général de France à Québec in association with Centre du Théâtre d’Aujourd’hui
Acknowledgement to Festival ZOA (Paris) + Sabrina Feldman
Premiered at Festival Les Rencontres à l’échelle, Marseille, on November 26, 2015
Gurshad Shaheman is an associate artist at the CDN Normandie-Rouen and a guest artist by Le Phénix -Scène nationale de Valenciennes, part of the Campus of the European Creative Hub.
Gurshad Shaheman (Brussels + Marseille)
A dynamic performer, Gurshad Shaheman has undeniable charisma onstage and is also a gifted playwright.
Born in Iran, he moved to France at the age of 12 and studied at the prestigious École régionale d’acteur de Cannes et Marseille (ERACM). As an actor he made a strong impression in 2004 at the Avignon Festival with his performance in Reza Baraheni’s QesKes, directed by Thierry Bédard. Meeting Baraheni was a turning point for him, an encounter that led to numerous collaborations as an actor, assistant director and translator. He has been writing and performing his own work since 2012. The first, Touch Me, made its début at the Théâtre de la Loge in Paris. The second solo, Taste Me, was presented at the Festival Les Rencontres à l’échelle – Les Bancs Publics in Marseille in 2013, as part of the Festival des Rencontres. Pourama pourama includes the first two shows plus a third entitled Trade Me.
Gurshad Shaheman is also a regular participant in Nuits bas nylon, a queer, musical and poetic cabaret in Brussels, and produces his own Cabaret dégenré performances in Paris. In 2017 and 2018 he played Hermione in Racine’s Andromache, directed by Damien Chardonnet-Darmaillac. He was an actor in the double bill AK-47 (directed by Perrine Maurin) which toured France. He was the one of the 2017 recipients of the Villa Médicis Hors les murs artistic residency awarded by the Institut français, an important research and creation program.
The piece consists of three solos. The theme of the first is childhood and your relationship with your father, while the second deals with adolescence and places the focus on your mother. Is the third about the discovery of love and desire?
The main theme for me is the question of the body. In the first part: the silent body. In the second part: the exploited body. All of that has had consequences on the adult I have become. How does one construct an identity? What does one do with this body once it comes time to get rid of it? That is what led to the third part: Trade Me. Initially there was only the first part, but in that solo the mother is barely present and does not speak. I wanted to give her a voice, do her justice. After all, it was she who decided to move to France, to go into exile. Once I had written the first two parts, I needed closure. We’ve met the father, the mother, the child and the adolescent. What does he do with that heritage? The first two solos called for a third.
In the first part you let spectators touch you, you give them something to eat and drink, and then you invite a single spectator to become a privileged intermediary. Why disrupt the actor-audience rapport?
It creates danger. Everything that had been planned can potentially be turned upside down. It changes my way of moving, of saying the text. As soon as the audience is there, as soon as I look into their eyes, every story I tell becomes concrete. In this performance I am completely open to the spectators. It’s not an easy thing to let people touch you. In the first few shows I didn’t move. I was like a statue, regardless of how people touched me. After a while I realized that their hearts were beating fast, that it was a difficult thing for them to do. I had to be equal to their generosity. Now I welcome them, reassure them, whereas initially I was the one who needed to be reassured.
I really wanted this piece to be more than a show; I wanted it to be a moment of sharing. I invite people to come listen to a story, to eat and drink, to come in from the cold. All of my work has that desire not to be in a state of demonstrating or portraying, but instead to be there to experience something together. The spectators have an active role, but it is never forced. If they don’t want to touch me, share the space with me, then they are free to do so. I’m constantly trying to ritualize the theatrical act in a different manner, to place the body at the centre. I do not want the actor to be ethereal but to be physically present, with the audience in contact with the flesh, with the human. There is something primitive in touching another, and eating and drinking together.
The piece is peppered with strong imagery and stories about your past, yet it is short and quite intense. How did you organize all those memories?
In an interview where he was asked how he wrote Medea Material, Heiner Müller replied that first he wrote page after page, and then he removed everything that wasn’t absolutely necessary. He cut the fat from the text. I wanted to remove all the fat so that each anecdote was only a paragraph in length, so that in a single paragraph we have not only the story but also the ambience, sensations, texture of the moment. I always think of scenes as though in a film. The spectator needs to have precise images in the story, which means quickly establishing the décor and adding colour. Describe the images as though looking at a painting, establish the landscape.
I find my place in the writing, which is not always the case for an actor. It’s a place where I find myself in harmony with the object being created. For my most recent project, I met with people like me, artists who had to leave their countries either because of their artistic acts of engagement or because of their sexual orientation, people who left because they couldn’t be themselves in their homeland. I’m currently finishing a text based on those testimonials. It is still based on reality and the intimate, but it’s no longer my intimacy. I’m interested in fiction, but acting on reality interests me even more.
« Bouleversant »
Youssef Ghali, IO Gazette, 2017-05-27
« Un moment d’exception à la rencontre d’une vérité sans fard »
Yves Kafka, Inferno, 2016-10-27
« Il y a dans cette performance-fleuve une grande douceur dans la manière de narrer le domaine de l’intime. Gurshad Shaheman a beau mettre en avant les mécanismes qui régissent son rapport au public, il parvient à envelopper celui-ci de sa fiction pétrie de réel. »
Anaïs Heluin, Les Lettres Françaises, 2016-05-01