About the artistic choices:
The trap of this piece is to make it intellectual which is redundant with the text itself. The physicality has to be the unwritten medium for the subtext. The staging will be a simple but strong metaphor of the relation between the two characters: a boxing ring. In the beginning M1 and M2 are having an argument without words; they are boxing. M1 is in better shape and when the bell rings, M2 is a little disoriented. At that point, M1 starts the dialogue. Throughout the scene they will put their gloves back on whenever the communication isn't possible with words or whenever one of the characters wants to hide.
As John Taylor said about Sarraute's writing: "…It concentrates on every syllable, every phoneme, of an expression, testing and retesting it from all angles until those rapid, precise, "invisible actions" that we sense inside us--those "pre-linguistic movements" that Sarraute calls "tropisms"--become perceptible, palpable. (In the life sciences, a tropism is an involuntary orientation in an organism, induced by an independent stimulus.) For Sarraute, this "tropismic substance" founds our existence and constitutes its genuine source. The term "foreign" as applied to language hence has an arresting extension. Language seems to be, for Sarraute, an all-too-human means of communication to which we only partly, imperfectly, impurely, accede; what interests her is that which remains ensconced beneath the linguistic surface: the not-yet-verbalized sensation or feeling. These underlying actions (or "movements") initially engage spontaneous inner attraction or repulsion (a sort of primitive, pre-verbal "sympathy" or "antipathy") and only at a much later stage, conscious intention, let alone intellection. Sarraute came to term these pre-verbals interpersonal "exchanges" the "sub-conversation" of her plays and dialogic prose. Her penetrating comprehension of phonetic nuance is surely something for which her precocious bi-, even quasi-tri-, and later almost-quadri-, lingualism accustomed her".
The neighbors, M3 and F will be placed in the audience. The whole audience will be under the spotlights when the neighbors are asked to give their opinion. This interactive side involves the audience as witnesses and also as "jurors".
About the theme(s):
It would be restrictive to say that the theme of this play is the non-verbal communication. It covers a much wider range of human issues. In fact, the audience is asked indirectly to project their own communication problems or of others which they can relate to. From my experience of touring with this play, I discovered more options by listening to different audiences reactions to the Q&A.
Amongst the themes emerged the relations between couples, straight or homosexual, friends, relations between religions, cultures, and interaction between the two sides of a person e.g. masculine/feminine, good/evil. The common point of all these interpretations is the importance of the judgment by a third party, the society.
My work with this play is focused on two strong points, according to my sensibility and what happens around me. First I want to enhance the fact, or should I say the drama, that misunderstanding can lead to extreme situations. Secondly, in a society, which is all about being sharp, specific, categorized, "mono-cultural", everything that is different or unlisted represents an enigma, and soon a threat.
One anecdote says a lot about the power of this play. Jean-Jacques Dulon told me that when he played "Pour un oui ou pour un non" at the Theatre du Lucernaire in Paris, a man came to him after the show. He told Jean-Jacques that he was very moved and he would come back to see the play with his wife: they were at that time filing for divorce and not talking to each other any more. So they came together to see the play. We don't know if they worked things out between them, but we do know that at least they had the opportunity to do so.
JUST FOR NOTHING Pour un oui ou pour un non at the Tamarind Theatre, June 2002
As a young actor, I discovered "Pour un oui ou pour un non" (Just for nothing) in 1989, through being the assistant director of Jean-Jacques Dulon. We toured with the play throughout Europe and North Africa for several years. I became totally filled with the plays themes, and witnessed the tremendous response of so many different types of audiences during the Q & A that followed each performance.
This play enlightened my own expectations of the universality, and range of the theaters power, and promised myself that I would play it one day, being too young at that time.