Harlequin / Tengu bis (english)

a show written and directed by Didier Galas


The show begins with Harlequin sweeping the stage like an ordinary servant. Discovering speech, he confides in the Japanese audience, telling his story, at least what people believe it to be. He performs a mime that conforms to the classical canons of 19th century Commedia dell’Arte. Then he starts presenting a few excerpts from classical pieces, different versions of theatre’s Harlequin. However the demon concealed behind Harlequin and in the mask’s leather soon wants to take over the actor’s speech and body. Tired of being someone up to all kinds of tricks, this supernatural being takes over the stage in order to do himself justice! He rages against the actors and writers who have misrepresented his identity, play after play after play. The demon tells his story, his great story about himself, explaining how he met Zhong Kui in China or Tengu in Japan, before vanishing into thin air like the great Kurama Tengu.


Harlequin/Tengu bis is a comedy, a true harlequinade, and yet Harlequin’s story is a genuine tragedy. The show provides insight into several theatrical traditions, all brought together in one body. Behind western mime, the bones, muscles and voice of Didier Galas allow us to see and hear Peking Opera or Japanese Noh.

The mix of these traditional and archaic cultures is the fruit of a reflection which ultimately is much more contemporary than it seems, particularly when Harlequin turns into a demon before our eyes and starts talking to the audience… in their mother tongue. Traditionally, Harlequin has never spoken Japanese! So is the actor playing Harlequin or is Harlequin playing tricks on the actor?

performer: didier galas
translator and adviser: oura yasusuke
mask: erhard stiefel
costumes: moloko and jean-françois guilon
lighting:  jérémie papin
thanks to: laurent poitrenaux, sylvain prunenec, jean-charles di zazzo, shen zhihong, fei dawei and wang kai
Producer: Ensemble Lidonnes
Co-producers: Théâtre National de Bretagne, Rennes Bateau Feu, Scène Nationale Dunkerque
this production has benefited from the use of a studio at the Centre National de la Danse and the Laboratoires d’Aubervilliers
In Japan:
Co-producer: Franco-Japanese Institute in Tokyo
produced with support from CulturesFrance and the cultural section of the French embassy in Tokyo welcomed by the Franco-Japanese Institute, Kansai in Kyoto thanks to the Alliance Française in Osaka
Didier Galas was in residence in Kyoto’s Villa Kujoyama in 1998
running time: 60 minutes