Roselyne: I am not invisible
The French-born artist Cécile da Costa has presented her solo performance Roselyne in Prague’s Studio Alta. Inspired by a woman of the same name, the piece epitomised all women of her type – one single performer represented various shades of timidity, kindness, flashiness, desire and fear. Who are Roselyns? What are they like? Supple and submissive? Present but invisible? The verbal-physical monologue took the audience on a journey to the inner world of a woman, a journey infused with finding courage, dealing with insecurity and fear of all that surrounded her (or us?). How hard is it to open our eyes, look out and wake up? To accept the reality, to accept oneself?
Roselyne is a forty-minute long multigenre piece for a fragile but strong body and a firm but shaking voice. As an experienced performer, Cécile de Costa was in perfect control of the bare space and without any apparent rhythm mistakes she managed to keep the pace. Unfolding on a rimless stage, without sharp light changes, the choreography was revolving around a modern sofa situated in the centre of the stage. The minimalist scenography was underlined by the sterile whiteness of the dance floor on which tiny pieces of soil scattered around a flowerpot looked even more significant and prominent.
The inseparable part of the mosaic was a houseplant. It functioned primarily as a mask, but it also served as a prop or decoration defining the space. For almost two thirds of her time on stage, Cécile da Costa was holding the flower so that it covered her entire face. Her light skin showed through the long leaves, but we could not see her in the eyes as she kept them closed tightly. She was dancing, singing, talking, moving – all the time hidden behind the plant, the sofa or its parts. So much stronger was then her first eye contact with the audience. At that moment, her entire being seemed to melt down. Clad in a green dress she resembled a plant, a thin stem, a blossom. Maybe she wished to become that houseplant she was playing with. Maybe she longed to be a mere silent decoration standing in the corner, a confidant and the one who confided in her.
Who is/are Roselyne(s)? She knew who she was not. She cited the names she did not identify with. She was remembering – or at least that was how I translated her repetitive singing which reminded me of rewinding a cassette tape. Cécile da Costa’s idiosyncratic voice expression communicated the message, the content and the theme. However, I appreciated much more the symbiosis between the spoken word (or lyrics) and motion, when words became music as well as an impulse to physical action, and intonation and breath awakened emotions. In this respect, the performer was unique and original. In her choreography, she focused on walking variations in which rhythmical steps, bends, turn outs and other moves based on isolation kept the audience in suspense. Her manifold ways of sitting down on a sofa, sinking into it, her cascade of trials and crazy playful creations when she wanted to hide away (and not to be seen but still show some part of her body) were a nice addition to the onstage action. As a movement refrain, she used the typically feminine gesture of checking on her skirt if it covered all her backside.
The precise and accurate Roselyne, her body and attitude being the ones of a girl as well as a mature woman, repeated her phrases with worries and with courage. Full of fear of failure and fear of being seen (and with many other phantasies), she managed to convince us that her story was deeply personal and intimate. In her previous works, Cécile da Costa had proved herself to be an excellent storyteller, and an authentic and technically skilled performer. Roselyne - it is a one-woman show spanning several genres, it is a woman’s message about courage addressed to herself, and to women and men alike - even though she remained the mysterious Roselyne chanting a mantra about being a perfectly imperfect perfectionist.
Written from the première held on 24 October 2019, in Studio Alta.
Theme, concept and choreography: Cécile Da Costa
Cast: Cécile Da Costa
Directing collaboration: Dominika Špalková
Stage and costume design: Petra Vlachyňská
Lighting design: Jiří Šmirk
Music: Jan Šikl
Co-production: Studio Alta
Première: 24 Oct 2019
The Czech version of this text was published on 9 November 2019.