You need Flash player 8+ and JavaScript enabled to view this video.
© Jean Louis Fernandez


Gisèle Vienne

Box of Illusions

In a room that might at first seem perfectly ordinary, seven puppets representing teenagers—recurring figures in the theatrical world of Gisèle Vienne—are scattered on the ground. They are soon joined by the actresses Adèle Haenel and Henrietta Wallberg, who almost effortlessly embody all ten characters in Robert Walser’s The Pond(L’étang), a short play about a troubled childhood which the author, one of German-language literature’s most eccentric, dedicated to his sister.

L’étang recounts a day of deception in which Fritz puts his mother’s love to the test by faking his own suicide. Gisèle Vienne has set the play in a highly charged environment that amplifies the senses—mikes as close to the body as possible, layers of hallucinatory sound—and immerses us in the psychic space of the characters while also laying bare their wounds. Astonishing and immensely sophisticated, her version of L’étang reveals the traumatic effects of normalized violence. Depicting a teenager’s rebellion against family and society, it’s both intimate—almost obsessively so—and highly political.

General info

About the artists

© Andrea Montano

Gisèle Vienne (Strasbourg) DACM / Compagnie Gisèle Vienne

Gisèle Vienne joined the École nationale supérieure des arts de la Marionnette in 1996, then founded her own company, pursuing all aspects of the puppeteering art in Showroomdummies (2001-2020), a collaboration with Étienne Bideau-Rey, and The Ventriloquists Convention (2015), presented at FTA in 2016.

A visual artist, photographer, and director, she has also continued her explorations beyond the stage, including the publication of the book/CD set Jerk // Through Their Tears (2011)—a companion piece to Jerk (2008), a show performed at La Chapelle in 2010.

Full biography

Media Coverage

« Une stupéfiante Adèle Haenel, qui compose les voix de tous les enfants et montre, si besoin était, l’étendue de son talent. […] L’intensité de la proposition et la qualité des interprétations sont telles qu’on demeure conquis. D’autant que la force opératique des images et du son révèle à chaque moment les maîtrises plastique et chorégraphique de Gisèle Vienne. »

Marie-Pierre Genecand, Le Temps (Suisse), 2021-06-05

“Theirs are virtuosic performances, built out of seemingly disparate elements. […] Time and again, in [Adèle Haenel’s] performance, pain morphs into pleasure, before regressing back to pain. Between scenes, she climbs slowly onto the bed previously occupied by the inanimate teenage girls, with a hint of erotic charge — also present between Fritz and his sister Klara. At times, it’s impossible to tell whether Haenel is assuming their roles, or making the story up in a dreamlike state.”

Laura Cappelle, The New York Times (États-Unis), 2021-05-19

« Une œuvre parmi les plus intenses et parfaitement sophistiquées de sa créatrice, Gisèle Vienne, cette metteure en scène, chorégraphe, marionnettiste étrange qui veille depuis des années sur un royaume fantastique un peu délaissé, celui de l’ambiguïté et des zones grises, des perversions et des désirs inconvenants. » 

Fabienne Arvers, Les Inrockuptibles (France), 2021-05-07


“What I’m interested in is viewing the family structure that we’re familiar with in western culture as a breeding ground for domination, the place where power relationships are established on a personal level, becoming part of our flesh and blood.”

Read the interview.