Kolik, by Rainald Goetz, directed by Hubert Colas, acted by Thierry Raynaud


By my count there were approximately 120 (one hundred and twenty) shots. More than 4½ bottles of vodka. More than enough to kill someone. Back at the end of March I got to see Thierry Raynaud in a play called Kolik by Rainald Goetz, which was directed by Hubert Colas at Usine C. (That’s a mouthful!) That’s where the shots were. It’s a fairly sparse play, in short, M. Raynaud is sitting on stage in front of a table with a bunch of glasses on it. During the course of 70 minutes (an average if 1.7 shots/minute) he rants on and about a variety of subjects and in general portrays a very ugly drunk. But that’s not the half of it. That’s kind of like saying there are a couple of books at the library.

But before I go on, I probably should give some background, since in poking around on the internet, there isn’t too too much about Kolik, Mr. Goetz, Mr. Colas and Mr. Raynaud in English. As far as I can tell, Mr. Goetz is some kind of avant-garde, experimental German playwright. Mr. Colas appears to be a very influential and important director of plays in France and Mr. Raynaud a kick-ass French actor who has worked with Mr. Colas since 1994.

Back in the eighties he wrote a trilogy called “Kreig,” (War in English). In the first part, I think it’s about how society deals with war, in the second part, family and war, and the third part – Kolik (colic in English) brings war down to the personal level. I have no idea if the first two parts played at Usine C and I just missed them, or if this was a oneshot deal.

But no, never mind, Kolik stands up on its own, and it was only in reading the press kit and other stuff that I could find on line, after the fact that I discovered it was part of a larger whole. As far as I could tell while it might have been cool and/or interesting to see the first two parts of the trilogy, it was not necessary.

Kolik, by Rainald Goetz. Photo courtesy of Dipthing.com
Kolik, by Rainald Goetz. Photo courtesy of Dipthing.com

Anyhows, now that we got the background out of the way, we can proceed to the foreground. 120 shots. 1.7 shots/minute for the entire duration of the play. But despite the overdosing on alcohol, one of the first things that occurred to me was, did the Automatistes ever do any spoken word performances? The way the shole things was done, if I didn’t know any better, it would have been extremely simple to think that Mr. Raynaud was just doing some sort of stream of consciousness rant – and in fact I might have believed he was, had Mr. Goetz not been given credit for the text.

Thanks to Rue89.com and Google Translate, this is how it would start if someone did a half-assed translation into English:

Come on
(go) faster
Go on
Brain dog dirt
Grime fucking dog fucking
Laying there-
God fucking damn dirt
Outside of dog shit

Each word being barked out, as if Mr. Raynaud was himself the Tip-shit Brain dog dirt in the grime. Just a little bit aggressive, although to be honest I wasn’t thinking that it was going to be a nice relaxing night at the theatre.

At various points, I was thinking that maybe they were trying to make some connection to Tourette’s Syndrome. But then given the amount of drinking involved, there was also the one time, when I kind of wished I had seen Broue. Not that I honestly thought that the two plays shared anything in common, beyond the drinking, but so that I would be better able to see the extremes. But despite Broue having been performed since Methuselah was knee high to a grasshopper, somehow I haven’t been able to get my act together to go and dee it. Pity.

And then there were the two pages of notes that I took that consisted of the word “drink,” repeated about two dozen times on each page. Given the nature of the performance (it being in French, me being a bloke and a a squarehead, along with me writing my notes in English) there were sometimes where it just seemed appropriate to let the words cascade over me. Not quite like music, nor like a shower, but more like dirt. You know the sensation when you’re digging a tunnel and suddenly part of it caves in on you? And you end up with dirt in your eyes, ears, mouth and every other place you can think of? Like that.

Kolik by Rainald Goetz with Thierry Raynaud. Photo coutrtesy dipthong.com
Kolik by Rainald Goetz with Thierry Raynaud. Photo coutrtesy dipthong.com

He drinks
but why
Question why Word
Answer strict order
Question why strict order of words
Response in exercise maximum rigor of the test material
Question why resistance test word
reply Hate
Word-response shut up
Word hush ai ai
Discipline-word response
I hate repeat
I do not ask why
I say I say this material is
Hate-word response
I say hate
hate hate
He drinks

Again from rue89.com and Google Translate. And did I mention the approximately 120 shots that are consumed during the course of the performance? Easily the equivalent of three 40 pounders.

Mr. Raynaud’s character is angry and pissed off, and as far as I can tell probably dies. While I was watching him perform, I was not quite as conscious of any specific war-like parallels or analogies. But now safely ensconced in the library, where they have some of Mr. Goetz’s work if some teacher asked me to knock together some sort of paper outlining how Kolik was about the war, I wouldn’t balk too too much. Just from my Psych 101 knowledge of Post-traumatic stress disorder it would be fairly easy. Using just a little brain power, it would become a slam dunk. But since I don’t have much of the script to quote from, and seeing how it’s really early in the morning and I don’t quite have access to all the brain power I would like, you’re just going to have to take me at my word.

Kolik by Rainald Goetz with Thierry Raynauld. Photo courtesy 23h32.com
Kolik by Rainald Goetz with Thierry Raynauld. Photo courtesy 23h32.com

During the course of the performance I only heard two people leave, so obviously, it isn’t for everyone. But now in retrospect, I kind of get a feeling that some people would walk out on a play by Eugène Ionesco or Samuel Beckett. And while I don’t want anyone to infer that I think Kolik is theatre of the absurd, going to see it in the same frame of mind as you would The Bald Soprano or Waiting for Godot. Although now that I am doing cursory research, I’d venture a guess that there are some striking similarities to the plays of David Mamet. I should also mention the almost ghost-like video that is projected on the back wall of the theatre that kept me engaged for far longer than it should have, given that I was barely able to make out what was on it.

In the middle of the play things get very dark and Mr. Raynaud’s speech comes out of a bunch of speakers in different places in the theatre. But despite these bits of high-tech gadgetry the play really remains and belongs entirely to Mr. Goetz and Mr. Raynaud. The power of the words, and the the power of their presentation is such, that even if you were to watch the play with your eyes closed you’d understand it completely.