Philippe Quesne - the man with a microscope


On the 50th anniversary of Tampere Theatre Festival, the audience is immersed in an allegorical world: Night of the Moles takes us underground, to a caveland full of giant moles. Philippe Quesne, the director of the show, often reflects on the relationship between mankind and nature in his works. The scenography is used as an ecosystem where he works and studies small communities under his microscope. 

“As in my other plays, I want to immerse spectators in the story, while at the same time showing them that we’re fully aware of the way things are made and invented”, Quesne says.

In 2003, Quesne created the Vivarium Studio Company which has attended Tampere Theatre Festival twice before (L’effet de Serge 2008 and The Melancholy of Dragons 2009). Quesne received his education in visual arts and stage design. For 10 years he designed sets for theatre and operas. Since his very first play (The Itching of the Wings 2003) he has combined different forms of theatre, image, music and installation in his works. In addition to theatre he creates performances in public spaces and natural sites. 

Since 2014 Quesne has been the director of theatre Nanterre-Amandiers, which will bring the caveland to Tampere this year. The ambiguous subterranean world is wide open for our imagination.

“When we dig, we discover caves, vestiges of the past. Our prehistoric past lives alongside nuclear waste. There’s something both fascinating and terrible in this loop of human activity”, Quesne says.

Quesne’s projects have been thought to be based on myths or fables, such as Plato’s Allegory of the Cave, but Quesne himself has a different point of view.

“I’m not so much working from a myth as from a few intuitions linked to a certain place. In The Melancholy of Dragons, I used snow to express the extraordinary; the marsh in Swamp Club (2013) was a good metaphor for a place of danger, in mid-water. The cave is a place of dreaming, open to the fantastical, but also ideal for reflecting on the darker and more mysterious aspects of the human.”

Quesne says that taking things underground opens up an array of possibilities and fascinating themes relating to our imagination of the subterranean.

“It’s a world which evokes the idea of refuge, a burrow, a hiding place or a nuclear bunker, or even a theatre, since theatre is a form of cave art”, Quesne says.

You are invited to this magical world in Tampere this summer. Welcome to Caveland!


The text is based on an interview by Marion Siéfert (2015), other material of the group and the website of Nanterre-Amandiers.

Night of the Moles on Friday 10.8. at 19:00 and on Saturday 11.8. at 16:00 on the main stage of TTT.

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