Swinging Belleville rendez-vous
William Temple takes a trip to Belleville, while Danny Arter reviews the original animated film
’m a fresher, I’m new on the drama scene
at Warwick University, and I’m in awe. So
far I’ve dipped my toe in a bit of Shake-
speare, I’ve dabbled in a weekend show or
two and my latest challenge, my current raison
d’etre is the extraordinary theatrical process of
devising. For those normal people out there
‘devising’ is creating a theatrical show from
scratch without the usual basis of a script (to
put it simply); a blank canvas you might think,
a world of infinite possibility and potential.
The devised Codpiece production Belleville
Rendez-Vous (to be performed in the Warwick
Art Centre studio this week) is based upon
the French animated movie by Sylvain Chom-
et that goes by the same name. The canvas is
not therefore quite as blank as first thought.
From my observations as a cast member our
job has been to transfer the intricate plot
from the medium of cartoon and animation
to that of the stage. In order to do this we’ve
divided the film into chunks or chapters and
in each case extracted the ‘essence’ or ‘artistic
intentions’ from the scene and tried to devise
around those, rather than simply imitating the
plot exactly. At every rehearsal everyone in the
cast is present. Sometimes we work in separate
groups, other times we all work together, but
at the end of the scene’s rehearsing, everyone
has watched, listened and commented on each
others ideas in some way.
What is fascinating about this theatrical
process is the reliance one has upon the others
he Triplets of Belleville, more com- distorted and contorted into a variety of sil- beginning of the film, and comes to resem- and how they enable you to be a creative force.
monly known in Britain as Belleville houettes; the Giacommetian cyclists are spin- ble a Tower of Pisa-style relic. Increasingly I am a performer, not a writer. I can recite lines
Rendez-Vous, is a largely wordless dly and angular in an almost comic way, with the industrialized oppresses the traditional or affect an air of sadness but I cannot invent
animated film by French filmmaker exaggerated thighs and quadriceps as a result – Bruno’s irrational hatred of trains stems a story, not on my own. Devising is a sponta-
Sylvain Chomet. As the film’s dialogue is of their physical labours. Conversely, there from a traumatic accident in which his tail was neous, organic product of the collective com-
scarce, the fantastic visual animation is relied are numerous overweight characters, whose crushed by Champion’s toy-train set. It is a pany. This is what makes it so powerful. As a
on to recall the story of a parentless young obesity quite literally renders them spherical. hate so deep rooted that the canine routinely cast member of this devised production I have
boy in the care of his grandmother, who buys The mafia figures, meanwhile, are portrayed barks at every passing train, a routine that is learnt more than ever before about theatre, the
the child a bicycle in the hope that he will be in a more quadrilateral manner, broad-shoul- accelerated with the transfer to the more in- art of story-telling, the crafts of puppetry and
roused out of his obvious melancholy. The dered and bullish. dustrialized Belleville. song, the fact that my body can do the talk-
scheme works, and the boy develops into a That the film was nominated for two Os- The film, released some seven years ago, has ing instead of my mouth, the infinite variety
fine cyclist, in part due to the dedicated help cars upon release in 2003 can only be seen as aged impeccably. The universal theme at the of sounds that a suitcase can make, and how
and tender encouragement of his grandmoth- a cutting irony. For Chomet’s picture is not a centre of the plot concerning the all-consum- this myriad of brilliant ideas, actions, and con-
er, who acts as his trainer. typical Oscar-nominee. It can only be seen as ing nature of the mechanized age perhaps has cepts are funneled into one astounding vision.
Champion, as the boy is known, competes a scathing Marxist critique of increasing ho- more relevance today than upon Belleville’s I am in awe of what we’ve created and feel im-
in the annual Tour de France race, only to be mogenization, mass-media commodity con- release. In an age of increasing digital produc- mensely proud to be amongst the madness of
kidnapped by broad-shouldered mafia hench- sumption and the destruction of tradition by tion in film, most notably with Disney-Pixar’s Belleville.
men, who use him and two other cyclists in an increasingly regulated, mechanized way of monopoly in the animated film department, William Temple
a bizarre gambling scheme. He is abducted life. The city of Belleville is a corrupt capitalist Belleville Rendezvous is a beautiful, refreshing
and escorted to fictional Belleville, closely society obsessed with consumption, evident piece of cinematography, impeccably crafted
followed by his loving grandmother and loyal in the brazen ‘Hollyfood’ sign. Despite such with sporadic bouts of macabre humour. Bel-
dog Bruno. The duo are aided in their endeav- an explicit slander of red-carpet culture, the leville is the oppressed underdog, the bicycle
our by the Triplets of Belleville, a trio of aged film was nominated for Best Animated Fea- to Disney’s train; yet the film’s simple, under-
cabaret singers who give their collective name ture and Best Original Song at Hollywood’s stated brilliance reveals that it is the modern
to the original French release of the film. annual award ceremony. digital age that isn’t necessarily on the right
The plot is a mere subtext to the beauti- The grandmother’s house - once a tall, pic- track.
ful, if bizarre, animation – which is aided by turesque French residence - is disabled by
a wonderful soundtrack. Bodies and faces are a cripplingly unsightly bridge erected at the Danny Arter
Come one, come all.
The talented theatrical elite of Warwick bring you:
Week 4 Come take the stage at the (very) loosely Keeno Kino - Monday 8th Feb, time TBA -The
Belleville Rendez-Vous - Codpiece’s surreal French-themed Freshblood Ca-Beret (see student film festival. A new showcase of bur-
jaunt through France via puppets and cabaret what they did there) - Tuesday, Kelseys 8pm geoning celluloid talent at Warwick
Week 5 Week 6
Fate -Warwick Chinese Drama Society’s an- West Side Story - MTW’s toe-tapping musical Measure for Measure brings darkness, duplic-
nual performance at Coventry’s Belgrade shimmies its way into the Arts Centre’s main ity and desire to the studio
Theatre – fear not, it has English subtitles! theatre – tickets selling fast!