“Les ?ph?m?res” is a dramatic work of Th??tre du Soleil, premiered in Paris at the end of 2006. During this nearly seven-hour-long performance, we can see twenty-nine fragments of everyday life in France. Ariane Mnouchkine, the director of the company, often use a unique aesthetic to represent contemporary social issues on stage, so that she sees realism, naturalistic drama as enemies, and she pursues a theatrical style of performance. However, the performing style in Les ?ph?m?res is very close to the reality, Mnouchkine also emphasizes the accuracy and authentic feelings in this performance. This argument is very different from her insistence on theatrical style. But, she still denies realist drama aesthetic. Therefore, we want to research the tension between realism and distancing effect in this performance.
In the first chapter “realistic style and theory”, we need to understand the realistic style in the history of theatre (from antiquity to the twentieth century), and reveal Ariane Mnouchkine’s perspective on the present, the authenticity and the realism. We also explore Th??tre du Soleil’s theatrical style which has a similarity with Brecht's epic theatre as well as the distancing effect. In the second chapter “The genesis and the structure of Les ?ph?m?res”, we elucidate how this work was created collectively by the actors, with their memories and their own life experience
then to analyze the complex structure of this creation. Les ?ph?m?res is composed by twenty-nine mini-scenes (“instant”) which form several sections (“monde”). Not only the connection between these mini-scenes, but also the relation between these fragmented pieces and the real life are interesting to explore. In the third chapter “Realistic aesthetic in the performance”, we first show concern to the intimacy between the audience and the performance by unveiling various dimensions (background of space-time, collective memories, type of roles, scenery, sound, lighting, etc.) and research how these elements reinvent the real of everyday life in the theatre. Furthermore, the actors create their roles through makeup, clothing, interview, acting, in order to emphasize reality effect. In the fourth chapter “Strategies in the distancing effect”, we observe on the unique performance space constructed by a traverse stage, a pair of curtains, numerous moving platforms on stage and the “pushers” of these little platforms. We also point out some theatrical styles such as play within the play, multiple roles by one actor, interlaced times and spaces to discuss how these elements extend the distance among the audience and the performance.