Duration: 3 hours 20 minutes with two intervals
Premiere June 1, 2, 3, 2017
“Saigon set Caroline Giuela Nguyen apart. Since its premiere last year, it has zipped around Europe non-stop, festival to festival. At home, it won its writer-director a second Molière award nomination.
Staged in a replica Vietnamese restaurant, the four-hour piece swung between Saigon in 1956, as French colonialists shipped out post Dien Bien Phu, and Paris 40 years later, as Vietnamese exiles faced the prospect of returning for the first time. Nguyen made that trip at 16, with her mother, but Saigon was not straightforwardly autobiographical. It grew out of two years of research with her cast, and the show swam with ghosts, grief and dreamy nostalgia as it kept various storylines spinning like plates.
That’s a mark of her beginnings – not only as a sociology student, but in reshaping literary classics for the stage. Having first worked with novels, including a two-parter that chucked Madame Bovary into today’s world, her company, Les Hommes Approximatifs, changed tack, focusing on overlooked stories and underrepresented lives. She began collaborating in prisons with Joël Pommerat and, in her shows, started to focus on the scars left by colonialism. Her shows have a gorgeous, unreal aesthetic, but the language is radical too: by refusing surtitles for multilingual shows, Nguyen pushes against old hierarchies and privileges”.