The Garden of Delights

Philippe Quesne (Vivarium Studio)

World premiere: 6 July 2023, Festival d’Avignon

A group of people in historical costumes examine a giant eggshell.

The Garden of Delights © Martin Argyroglo

In an austere landscape, a droll group of travellers discovers “The Garden of Delights (Le jardin des délices)” by French director and set designer Philippe Quesne and his Vivarium Studio. They recollect final fragments of European culture and imagine themselves in the utopia of a different life in uncertain times.

In an inhospitable, stony environment, a group of eight travellers step out of a white bus. They immediately begin to explore and shape their surroundings, and find that a cracking dinosaur egg plays an important part. As often in Philippe Quesne’s work, the characters form a community of individualists who begin to work on a not quite clearly defined project, both independently and together. They draw on the treasure trove of memories from centuries of European high and popular culture: William Shakespeare, Georges Perec, Henry Purcell and Roy Orbison are recited and performed, scientific discourses unfold – and in the end, all eight protagonists, brilliantly embodied by Philippe Quesne’s artistic companions, seem to have landed in Hieronymus Bosch’s painting “The Garden of Earthly Delights” itself. As director and scenographer Philippe Quesne said in an interview with the dramaturg Éric Vautrin: “They propose to believe in the utopia that they are outlining, for the duration of the show, as a way of bringing themselves – us? – together.” Until the group continues its journey after around 100 minutes, they imagine another world for themselves in their dreams, intertwining memory, friendship, landscape and theatre, opposing fear with a passive but purposeful resistance.

Philippe Quesne founded Vivarium Studio as an independent group of actors, artists and musicians in 2003. With Quesne as author and director, they developed pieces where the set enclosed the performers like a closed ecosystem. The group’s productions have been presented at theatres and festivals around the world. After a period as artistic director of the Théâtre Amandiers-Nanterre, Quesne reactivated Vivarium Studio in 2021. “The Garden of Delights” is inspired by the eponymous triptych by Dutch painter Hieronymous Bosch and continues the company’s exploration of our transformative modern world and the position which humans as well as animate and inanimate nature hold within it. Which strategies, which utopias can we invent in the face of an uncertain future and radically changing structures?

Artistic Team

Philippe QuesneConception, Staging and Scenography
Laura VazquezOriginal Texts
With text fragments by William Shakespeare, Dante Alighieri, Jan van Ruysbroek and others
With music by Henry Purcell, José Mário Branco, Roy Orbison, Jérôme Bosch, Giacomo Meyerbeer, Areski Belkacem, Bernard Herrmann and others

Karine Marques FerreiraCostumes, Sculptures
Élodie DauguetCollaboration on Scenography
Éric VautrinDramaturgy
François-Xavier RouyerAssistant
Marc ChevillonTechnical Collaboration
Janyves CoïcSound
Jean-Baptiste BoutteLighting
Matthias SchnyderVideo
Mathieu DorsazProps
François Boulet, Martine StaerkStage Management
Ewan Guichard, Fabio Gaggetta – Stage Technicians
Cassandre ColliardLighting Technician
Matthyas Schnyder, Victor Hunziker – Video Technicians
Estelle Boul, Cécile DelanoëDressing
Ateliers du Théâtre Vidy-LausanneSet Build
Judith Martin, Elizabeth GayProduction and Booking
Charlotte Kaminski, Alice Merer – Production Vivarium Studio 
Aline Fuchs – Production on Tour

Created and performed by
Jean-Charles Dumay, Léo Gobin, Sébastien Jacobs, Elina Löwensohn, Nuno Lucas, Isabelle Prim, Thierry Raynaud, Gaëtan Vourc’h

A production of Vivarium Studio and Théâtre Vidy-Lausanne in co-production with Festival d’Avignon, Ruhrtriennale, Athens Epidaurus Festival, Tangente St. Pölten –Festival für Gegenwartskultur, Berliner Festspiele, Théâtre du Nord – Centre Dramatique National Lille / Tourcoing Hauts-de-France, Maison de la Culture d’Amiens – Pôle européen de création et de production, Les deux scenes – Scène nationale de Besançon, Centro Dramático Nacional, MC93 - scène nationale de Seine-Saint-Denis à Bobigny, Le Maillon – Théâtre de Strasbourg – Scène européenne, Kampnagel, Festival NEXT, Scène nationale Carré-Colonnes Bordeaux-Métropole, National Theater and Concert Hall Taipei.