My Inspiration: Mathieu Geffré – The Monocle | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Photo by Luke Waddington

Newcastle-based Rendez-Vous Dance will be taking their hit show The Monocle around the UK as part of a ten-day tour. The show tells the story of the famous 1930s Parisian Lesbian cabaret bar, Le Monocle, a place where women met in a safe space without fear of judgement. During its history, the bar welcomed many famous faces including Marlene Dietrich and was documented by photographer Brassai. 

Choreographed by award-winning choreographer Mathieu Geffré the show advocates for the continued importance of safe spaces for LGBTQIA+ people at a time when many in the community feel vulnerable and have increased safety concerns. 

The production will be heading to Northern Stage, Newcastle on 23rd February for their sold-out show, and then to Queen’s Hall Arts Centre, Hexham on the 17th June.

Ahead of these performances, Mathieu Geffré tells us about the inspirations behind The Monocle…

Looking for a story/theme/concept to develop a production is not an easy task Some artists say the concept/story/theme picks you. And when it happens to you, you KNOW it, the making of the work becomes an urgency, this is what happened to me with the idea for The Monocle. The making of this work was such a big process for the Rendez-Vous team and myself as it was informed by many factors (pieces of personal history, artistic interest, identification) that it’s difficult to name a single source of inspiration.

I am passionate about LGBTQIA+ history and about my French Heritage, my curiosity is endless and translates into scavenging through the cracks of the history that we are being told. Sadly, I often find myself in a position to state that our common history resonates with our present. We can only avoid for history to repeat itself when memory is kept alive and who better than the Artist to hold this responsibility? When discovering about The Monocle and its mysterious closure in June 1941 with the Nazi Occupation of Paris, I couldn’t disconnect this story from the most recent dramatic events (Pulse’s shooting in Orlando in 2016, Club Q shooting in Colorado Springs, London Pub in Oslo in 2022 and the Two Brewers stabbings in London in 2023): The Monocle became then a necessary story to tell.

The two first questions we ask ourselves as a team when making a new work are the following; why is it important to us to make this performance? Why should the audience care about this story?

Beyond the personal curiosity, I truly believe that the story of The Monocle is an important testimony on what is a safe space and what it means to all of us. The Monocle allows us to reflect on our shared contemporary story and addresses our social construct with a universal resonance.

As a gay man who emancipated himself in the very same streets where The Monocle opened its doors,  I consider myself part of a wider community which can only celebrate itself for its diversity and inclusivity values. I am proud to belong to this community only because it defines itself by the combination of its many colours. Embracing and celebrating this diversity strengthens our collective power and deepens our understanding of each other.

The making of The Monocle required for us as a team to gather a detailed understanding of the historical and social context of Paris in between the two wars, feeding our research through readings and conversations with experts (Florence Tamagne) and collaborators with lived experience. We’ve never cared so deeply about getting something right as we did this story.

By making The Monocle my intention has always been to celebrate and give visibility. I now feel a better man because I educated myself about lesbian history, listened to their stories, and engaged in conversations to create an in-depth understanding. By doing so, I have wanted to contribute to the broader movement for LGBTQIA+ equity and right of representation and visibility. The Monocle was a unique opportunity to foster an environment where love transcends differences, creating a space where everyone feels seen, valued, and embraced. Love becomes a powerful catalyst for positive change and a testament to the strength that comes from unity within the LGBTQIA+ community. To bring my reflective thoughts to a close for now, I will share that I may never know if I got it all right or wrong but I know I brought the best of myself  to the effort

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