Noëlle Renaude has been writing plays for 25 years now; her work is staged regularly in Paris and in the rest of France, and has been translated into many languages. She is one of the most experimental and innovatory writers for the contemporary French stage. Her plays systematically question and dismantle the generic conventions. In her most recent plays, she attempts to stage the writing body and the body of writing by experimenting with the page framed on the computer screen, testing all the possibilities of what can happen within the space of the frame, and questioning what happens when the frame is transgressed, when words—and characters—disappear over the edge. By staging words untethered from characters and by drawing on the resources of a range of genres within the space of the play text—cinema, novel, poem—Renaude questions what it means to inhabit language in the twenty-first century. The plays present significant challenges to actors and directors, dispensing as they do with all of the conventions of character distribution, plot and setting. It is only by getting to work on the text with the breath, the voice, the body, that the reader/actor will discover the secret diary of the writing process inscribed in the text—its moods, its tones, its breakdowns, its exultations.
On Renaude’s stage, we wander in unfamiliar landscapes and feel (again) the terror of the threshold, the in-between of sound and sense, orality and textuality. In this essay, Noonan examines some of Renaude’s most recent plays in order to consider their relationship with the new technologies, and to ask whether she is attempting to develop the stage as the last bastion of the living voice as a vehicle for creativity, or whether she is in fact attempting to bring about an explosive collision of computer screen and stage space, machine and body. Ultimately, Noonan argues that in her systematic undermining of all the theatrical conventions, Noëlle Renaude is among a small number of playwrights who are currently inventing new theatrical languages, dismantling and reconfiguring a new stage for a new century.