Bernard-Marie Koltès and the Metaphorical Presence of Time
Marie-Pier Beaulieu

In Bernard-Marie Koltès’ play The Night Just Before The Forests (1970), theatricality figuration appears as the elusive figure of loneliness, abandonment and rejection. The play elaborates on a dialogue in which there is a presence that is not seen, but only heard and felt. How can this voice give shape to memory, which is after all an abstract reality? And how does the spectator and/or reader visualize the one whose only presence is revealed by the voice of another? In other words, how can a presence be embodied in language, be a metaphor of experience? Temporality and space are fundamental to creating a presence. How do they present themselves in the work of Koltès? How does the author achieve the temporal element that eludes us all? Time slips through our fingers; there is only the urgency of the moment and the flight from which there is no escape. This communicatively effective interaction of different types of figurative devices appears as the Seen and the Unseen, leading to the complexity of Koltès’ dialogue. The actor’s ability to present himself through the text and have that text be the invisible presence, are the main aspects of this meditation. The effect of presence is evoked by the discursive figure of the language embodied in the theatre as the metaphor of experience itself. Drawing on previous work on the metaphor by George Lakoff and Mark Johnson (Metaphors we live by, 1980) and the research on the effect of presence in theatre by Josette Féral, professor at L’École supérieure de théâtre in Montreal (Canada), this presentation seeks to deepen the interlacing between virtuality (text, language) and reality (actor, performance) in the play The Night Just Before The Forests by Bernard-Marie Koltès. What happens when an actor becomes the figurative image of language itself, the metaphor of resignation, inequity and solitude? The dialogue reaches its climax through the storytelling of the language, and is rendered more complex by the construction of a sensitive thought, serving literature, art and life.

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