Chocolat

 

Introduction

The performance starts with a conference led by Gerard Noiriel, who is a historian. The latter introduces a general vision of the history of discrimination, but his speech is « troubled », sharpened, redirected by the intervention of Clown Chocolat. Rafael's life story therefore completes the historian's speech.. Rafael is an orphan who was born in Cuba in 1864. He was a slave during his childhood and was sold to a rich Portuguese owner. He eventually became famous in France with Foottit, his partner. Together, they created a new kind of comedy duo : the whiteface clown and Auguste who deeply marked the history of clowns. Nowadays, however, the racial dimension is forgotten. They encountered a great success because the blackface clown was always ridiculous and humiliated by the whiteface clown. In this show, Chocolat reproduces on stage the act that made everyone laugh in France back in 1890-1900. A video film shows the images of that time, when the comedy duo was filmed by silent films – it is one of the first Lumiere brothers movies. Fiction and history mingle through archive images, the historian's and the actor's speeches.

This scenography aims to entice the audience to wonder about the history of stereotypes and skin color prejudice. The Foottit -the whiteface clown- acts with Chocolat is very offending nowadays, whereas it used to be funny back in the Belle Epoque. In France. This statement enables to broaden the analysis of the history of representation for one century and of the current forms of others humiliation.

The aim of the performance -that mingles humor and seriousness- resorts to knowledge, emotions, analysis and testimonies. It is a chance to remind that there are always two ways of telling history :: the researchers' scholarly history and the actors' memory. The audience is lead to identify with Chocolat's misfortune. At the same time, however, they are led to stand aloof in order to avoid to go too far with melodrama and to fuel a vision of the world that would consist in the victims and the guilty ones. Chocolat's memories and the historian's analysis underline the recourse that stigmatized people can use in order to break with their statuses of victims, and become the actors of their own lives.

The performance is also a chance to enhance the collective memory of slavery, colonization and immigration. Starting from the true story of Rafael, the performance is a tribute to immigrate artists who played a vital role in the development of live performing arts in France.

Each performance is followed by a talk with the historian and the artists.