Joachim Latarjet is a Greek-French author, composer, director and musician. In his latest work entitled Elle voulait mourir et aller à Paris (She wanted to die and go to Paris) the multi-faceted artist along with his theatrical group Oh! Oui, talks about exile, memory and language. The point of departure is his mother’s story, who in a way denied him the Greek culture and language.

“I always wondered why I had been refused this language, this culture, what stories had pushed my mother to distance herself from her origins, and partly from our cultural heritage. And why, despite this, I have always felt Greek, why my body vibrates at the slightest note of Greek music and at certain smells”.

The story of his mother begins in Thessaloniki in 1966 when, at the age of 14, was sent by her parents to live with a French family in Lyon, a decision that had a major impact on her adult life. “By not talking to me in Greek, she kept her parents away from me, which undoubtedly made them sad. So maybe language is a weapon for revenge. Because of that I will never be totally Greek, whatever my efforts to speak this language. So this language is a source of melancholy for me ».

Latarjet chose two actresses to interpret his mother. A Greek woman played by Daphne Koutsafti and a Frenchwoman played by Alexandra Fleischer. They are not two different women, they are the same. The Greek symbolizes memory. The Frenchwoman has lost her accent and erased all traces of her country of origin.

His mother’s journey and transformation enable the artist to explore his relationship to a country that is both familiar and foreign to him. “It is I who, by revealing this story, by interpreting it, by reinventing it, make the journey that brings me to this other country that I desire as if it was mine.”

In the show, Latarjet has fun tackling the clichés and stereotypes that foreigners often face in their adopted country.

“We had fun with Zorba the Greek, a book and a beautiful film, but also a stubborn cliché! My mother has always taken immense pride in being both Greek and French. She worked a lot in order to become French, but she never forgot that she was Greek. When she had just arrived in France, she was asked to dance the sirtaki. Although she did not care about it, she began dancing it. So that day, my mother, in order to be loved by her new friends, she had to play the ‘real’ Greek. To become French she must be a Greek”.

The performance successfully blends the music of languages and memories. “Music has always been my language, the one by which I express what I feel. It has always been marked by the Greek sounds, because it is also the music that connects me to Greece, before words and stories”, explains Joachim Latarjet.

* The play was created in the context of a residency program at the International Laboratory of artistic creation, Les Subsistances in October 2017 and was presented at the Week_end sur mars festival.