Marion Siéfert

Marion Siéfert describes a visit to the theatre with her school as an early key moment in her artistic development. Tellingly, the French writer, director, and performer can hardly recall the piece itself, but instead the atmosphere in the room: “We were a very large group of children, multiple classes, who didn’t know each other. I can remember the noise we made and the “shhhs” of the teachers. We talked a lot with each other. I remember that a boy in my class confided to a child from another class that he was in love with me. And the boy in question then yelled loudly: ‘Yes, Benoît is in love with Marion!’ all of a sudden, I was standing in the spotlight.”  

This unexpected shifting of the attention into the audience remained striking for the artist, who was born in 1987. Inspired by the work of theatre collectives like She She Pop and Forced Entertainment, Siéfert has questioned the roles of audience and performers from the very beginning and has shifted the gaze. Her first piece, “2 ou 3 choses que je sais de vous” (“Two or Three Things That I Know From You” was created in 2016 as part of her doctoral work at the Institute for Applied Theatre Studies in Gießen. The work varies from performance to performance: Siéfert describes, observes, and analyses what she can learn about the people in attendance from Facebook, chases down stories and invents possible continuations. She directs our attention to what is happening in the room and otherwise remains in hiding.

“_jeanne_dark” also takes the influence of social media on our everyday lives as its theme and is exemplary for the oeuvre of Siéfert. The piece takes place simultaneously on Instagram and in the theatre and provides insight into the inner life of a sixteen-year-old who is growing up with strict parents in a Catholic environment. This performance, which premiered in 2020, is, like all of Siéfert’s pieces, in tune with the times. It is a reflection on generation Z and the dangers of social media, an homage to self-determination and alternative forms of communication as well as a reflection upon the possibilities of new spaces, genres and models for interaction.

However, just as “2 ou 3 choses que je sais de vous” is more than the further development of a surveillance state à la George Orwell, “_jeanne_dark_” is also more than simply a contemporary interpretation of the French national here Joan of Arc. Siéfert uses her productions to address her own biography; in the case of “_jeanne_dark_” to speak about how personal relationship to Catholicism, with which she was raised in France. In her productions, she concerns herself with the question of how and what you can says about yourself in the theatre - with an eye toward feelings instead of the docmentary. The character of Jeanne already appeared in “Le Grand Sommeil”, here still in the role of an eleven-year-old girl whose monstrous dream provide insight into the shadowy parts of childhood. For her third production as a direction, “Du Sale!” (“Real Shit”), the young director worked with a community theatre in a banlieue of Paris and let the complex biographies of the dancer Janice Bieleu and the rapper Laëtitia Kerfa aka Original Laeti encounter each other. The plays of Marion Siéfert transcend borders and are places for experiments and living stories. The stage belongs completely to the performers, their texts are precise, and the production is highly entertaining - in one moment sensitive and poetic, in the next dramatic, trendy, and loud. The cultural codes of theatre and formal-aesthetic questions move into the background in the oeuvre of Marion Siéfert, creating space for real dialogues and encounters. 

Linda Peitz