The title of the play Gardien Party cannot be translated without losing its original meaning which relies on a wordplay: this is not a "garden party”, but literally a party of guards, and not just any, but guards in museums, museum attendants. This project by French authors Valérie Mréjen and Mohamed el Khatib is a form of documentary and devised theatre, based on material from the lives of its authors and/or performers. In this case, they are six attendants of major world museums from Paris, Marseille, Saint Petersburg, Stockholm and New York (two of them), whose confessions about their work, their own attitude towards the works they look after, museums as institutions, and their life ambitions and defeats (some of them are overqualified for this job and happen to be doing it by an unfortunate twist of fate), make up the material of this warm, sad, smart and witty play. It is always performed in front of an empty museum wall in front of which is a row of attendants’ chairs, which will gradually get filled with favourite works of art of our protagonists’, the unfairly ignored guardian angels of museums.
About the Production
They're not far away, vigilant while we look on. The works are always fragile, exposed to the irrepressible desire of many visitors to touch them, to comments, to interpretations, to possible damage or theft. The mission of the attendants and supervisors is to protect the works from these dangers. They see and hear everything, are sometimes taken to task, associated with presentation choices as if they were responsible for them. They have to be at once present but discreet, alert and attentive.
MOHAMED EL KHATIB is an author, theatre and film director, who develops unique projects of docufiction in theatre, literature, and film. On his intimate journeys, he invites farmers, cleaning lady, sailors, to help him create a written testimony about the present moment. I, Corrine Dadat offers an opportunity to a cleaning lady and to a classic ballet dancer to define their competencies together, while STADIUM brings 58 football supporters from Lens on stage.
VALÉRIE MRÉJEN has authored texts which, just like her video art and movies, fluctuate between word and image, the documentary and fiction. Inspired by memories, everyday events, harsh or burlesque details from life, she juxtaposes various types of narratives that she reconstructs. Interested in the most banal that life has to offer, she emphasizes diffuse non-communication, latent discomfort. Her books have been published by Allia and P.O.L.
From the Reviews
Mohamed El Khatib orchestrates the performance in a very elegant way. Without too many words or movements. Each sentence, simple and clear, is pregnant with truth and emotions. The audiences experience a metamorphosis: any discomfort they might feel in front of exhibitions and museums undergoes a radical change. They assume human dimension.
Philippe Chevilley, Les Échos
Museum attendants have their own place among the invisible heroes. Sitting on their chairs, they blend in and remain unnoticed. Mohamed El Khatib and Valérie Mréjen have met many of them from Stockholm to New York, from Sankt Petersburg to Paris. They have taken the best from their accounts and given us the Gardien Party, …
Brigitte Salino, Le Monde
The roles change miraculously on stage. Replaceable and disregarded at their work, here museum attendants become completely visible. They draw and hold our attention, demonstrate their versatility, speak up, become heard and seen, and so likeable that they provoke empathy which the approach by Valérie Mréjen and Mohamed El Khatib so skilfully creates and highlights. Without any grand gestures or effects, focusing on opening towards others, it places us within the true encounter of human beings.
Christophe Candoni, Scène Web