La Provence, La Marseillaise…


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La Provence – Saturday 24 October 2009

(newspaper – French)





Problems solved Grand Magasin-style


    Jubilatory, as always, the new show performed at La Minoterie by Grand Magasin, the company which, since 1982, has enjoyed mixing absurdity and science, object theatre and grand sociological concepts. Zaniness that makes you think while entertaining you at the same time.

Les déplacements du problème – the name of the show – does not break with tradition. This time they are playing with the problems of communication between human beings: technical problems, linguistic misunderstandings, a prankster echoing microphone, abstraction… Any excuse is good for 75 minutes of rather short sketches on a scattered stage cluttered with microphones, a ladder, podiums, and a white table.

Let us not forget the sound-absorbent rug and the rather regular and untimely eruption of a jackhammer.

All this is done with a real-fake detachment on behalf of Pascale Murtin, François Hiffler, Bettina Atala, their new recruit (and the help of Manuel Coursin, as the visible sound engineer), the show is not exactly interactive, even if the audience is sometimes led to think with the actor-lecturers about the notions of listening, of comprehension and of interest. By the end, you might even be able to remember a few disco-metaphysical dance moves which will soon be all the rage in nightclubs.

Patrick Merle




La Marseillaise – 24 October 2009

(newspaper – French)


Performance / humour. At La Minoterie, the trio Grand Magasin rants and derails, leaping from contempt to confusion.


Didn’t hear much, couldn’t understand much, but laughed a lot…


There are moments where you’re plagued by doubt for no reason and, conversely, that second where you think you’ve understood everything when, suddenly, everything falls apart. Looking for a street, an object that’s been carefully hidden, a message you thought you’d left, signals you thought you’d understood… Since Thursday, the troublemakers of Grand Magasin (Bettina Atala, François Hiffler and Pascale Murtin, accompanied by the omnipresent sound engineer Manuel Coursin) have delighted in dissecting all these “bugs” in human communication in Les déplacements du problème, presented on the stage of the Minoterie, now transformed into a zone of experiments that are each increasingly funnier and more absurd as the show progresses.

By testing the Ircam’s very serious tools of high-tech sound creation, they themselves create their own static in which the spectator, in spite of a few slow moments, wallows in delight, jolted by an incongruous plan to a negative echo microphone, a “hesitation machine” – which multiplies the speaker’s “uhh…s” – a doubt emitter with 3 pedals – but I’ll have to check on that – or, even, a rug that absorbs sounds. All of this ending in a hilarious final choreography. It’s as if 2be3, coached by les Deschiens, had decided to bring Deleuze to the stage. Or not.






(magazine – French)



Grand Magasin


Since the 1980s, the hypermarket has become the metonymy of post-modern life: everything is available all the time. It’s no accident that Grand Magasin (lit. “Department Store”) was founded during this period, in 1982, and that the Grenoble-based company’s performances are based on contemporary vocabulary: IT-based exchange, marketing, science that is dedicated less to progress and more to comfort and productivity… Free from the constraints of drama and narrative in theatre and dance, the authors and actors Pascale Murtin, François Hiffler and Bettina Atala have alternated between their strange conferences in a basic decor, comic sketches, and behavioural experiments. Their shows have always been playful and falsely naïve, like the two performances given in Marseilles: “Panorama commenté” (a play that takes place outdoors) and the more structured – but no less crazy – Les déplacements du probleme. For this show, Grand Magasin uses the stage as a lab for sensorial experiments: the actor-demonstrators present a series of devices which are supposed to facilitate communication but end up disturbing the presentation. It makes us realize, while making us laugh, how subordinated we are, like useless commodities or negligible guinea pigs, to social manipulation, and to a truncated perception of reality. But, in the end, we continue to be human and adapt despite it all.


“Panorama commenté” 19 and 20 October at 8pm.

“Les déplacements du probleme” 22 and 24  October at 8pm.




La Marseillaise – 19 October 2009

(newspaper – French)


Grand Magasin, this could be so good…


For over twenty years Pascale Murtin, Bettina Atala and François Hiffler, aka Grand Magasin, have brought their performances to national and international stages, “in spite of and thanks to a quasi-total ignorance of theatre, of music, and of dance,” so they claim. If their journey has taken them to Paris’ Centre Pompidou, to the Escales Improbables in Montreal or Ghent, to the “French Institute” in New York, it has also brought them to Marseilles – often in cooperation with Marseille Objectif Danse – to venues like the Montevideo or the Minoterie.


Landscape, nothing random here

This week, we find these extravagant handyman and women near Joliette, as they “play with logic, meaning and obvious facts”, as the Minoterie presented them in a restaurant on the Boulevard de Dunkerque […]

Still obsessed with “the world, its ambient and background noises”, these enthusiasts of the absurd will disturb the landscape, mysteriously provoking, via a large electronic board with coloured boxes, a certain symmetry in the disordered and necessarily random sequence of the outdoor events…

The trio will then return to the stage of the Minoterie to continue their dissections – often hilarious – of different processes of communication. With Les déplacements du probleme, they have transformed into Tupperware party-style “demonstrators”, using highly serious sound creation tools lent by the Ircam. But the clarity of the presentation is disturbed by the acoustic effect of the said devices. From this “telephone static” created by a microphone with variable coherence, a “hesitation machine” which multiplies one’s “uhh…s”, or a rug that absorbs sounds, they can finally have some fun with a final certitude: talking does not always mean you’ll be understood.






(weekly magazine – France)


Salesmen of the absurd


In two shows, Panorama commenté and Les déplacements du probleme, Grand Magasin won the public over with their wacky inventions, unveiling and responding to daily disorder. Ambitious and delicious.


The power of habit is so strong that, when it really comes down to it, we only find a single, formal meaning to daily existence. Thankfully, for the dormant utopians in all of us, the fake door-to-door salesmen/women known as Grand Magasin are here to reinvent the meaning of the objects that surround us.

Invited by the Théâtre de la Minoterie, these sales reps of the absurd have put down their suitcases at the Joliette. The choice of a neighborhood in full-on urban renewal is highly symbolic for a company that tries to make a construction site out of the future.

The jubilatory solutions are therefore offered up to simplify life. They bring a problem to the fore through roundabout means (Les déplacements du probleme) or by responding to it (Panorama commenté). In the first case, sonic obstacles to communication are illustrated via atypical inventions (doubt emitters, contradicting microphone…). In the second, the hidden geometry of a disorderly nature (a blinking beacon, a man exercising…) is unveiled to us through fake electronic devices.

Beyond the abrasive humor of these ingenious clownish inventers, it is truly the circuit of human understanding that is disturbed: to best understand, one mustn’t necessarily hear everything – and that doesn’t necessarily imply that one might even be interested. In this way, the geometrical decoding of daily disorder can appear to be futile to some, but we understand the logic. Similarly, the sound of a jackhammer will certainly stop us from hearing a conversation, but not necessarily from interpreting it.

The presentations follow one another and get a kick out of shaking this circuit up in every which way – to the point where the illustration and circumvention of the obstacles to communication become themselves sources of confusion… delightful and playful.

Somewhere between a bizarre showroom, theatrical performance, and the circus, the trio behind Grand Magasin utilizes the codes of spectacle and distill a veritable interaction with the audience. When can we finally buy their inventions?



Panorama commenté was presented the 19 & 20 October on the premises of the future restaurant Dock of the Bay

Les déplacements du probleme was presented from the 22 to 24 October at the Théâtre de la Minoterie.[/one_half_last]