Obsessed with the question "what is the essence of theatre?", French native Mathilde Bagein obtained a degree in Scenic Arts from the Université d'Artois in 2012.
Not fully satisfied with the answers she found in books, Mathilde joined the Conservatoire à Rayonnement Régional de Lille and was selected for the three-year curriculum of Professionalisation in Acting.
Enriched by her training, she started to perform with different troupes at various French festivals.
To fulfill her research on the origins of theatre and to meet other cultures, she joined ITI in 2015.
In the future, Mathilde wishes to work in ensembles in which the question of cultures are explored.
What were your theatre days like prior to ITI, in France?
I was a theatre practitioner and audience member from a very young age. My passion for theatre only grew since then, and after high school, I realised it was the only thing I could see myself working in for the rest of my life. That's why I first did a degree in Scenic Arts, then joined a French national conservatory for four years.
Parallel to those studies, I had the chance to meet the SITI Company in Paris and practice Suzuki and Viewpoints with them. I also joined workshops to acquire specialisations in neutral mask, commedia dell’arte, larval masks and clowning.
So why journey here, to Asia?
After attending a number of international workshops, I felt a bit enclosed in France. I felt that only French issues were presented on stage. I already truly believed in theatre as a place that allows cultures to meet: Ariane Mnouchkine was and still is my favourite director. From that feeling, I started to realise it was a good time to challenge myself somewhere else in the world.
That's when the magic happened: two days before my graduation shows, I received an email about ITI auditions in Paris. After checking the website and remembering some feedback from friends, I realised ITI was my best option: in a quest to capture the essence of theatre, I have been looking for the form’s origins since university, but in Europe, it is quite hard to find information about any ancient form other than Greek or Roman theatre. Here was the opportunity to catch a glimpse of another culture’s point-of-view and, best of all, by practising these forms, not studying them from books. I made my choice and I don't regret it.
Do you remember your first day here?
I clearly remember that I couldn't understand everything I heard that day! It took me a few days to get used to everybody's accents. Today the ‘English’ I speak is actually a mixture of sounds coming from France, Singapore, India, China, the US, Australia and everywhere!
Share something important you’ve gained from studying at ITI.
The main thing I discovered here is self-discipline. “Discipline” was a very negative word for me back in France: something linked to rigorousness, authority, lack of freedom. But what I discovered is how giving myself rules actually increases my creativity. ITI shows me everyday how to be both self-disciplined and open-minded.
What’s been the most interesting thing about working with your classmates from various countries?
Communication. That is what we have to deal with every day. For many of us, English is not our mother tongue. Our cultures raised us with different ways of expressing our emotions and our minds. What I learned from being with international students is that being diverse gave us new communication skills. It might be quite subtle to the outside eye, but over the years we’ve managed to create our own vocabulary, our own grammar, our own gestures... a completely new language spoken by only 14 people [editor’s note: there are 14 students in Mathilde’s cohort] in the entire world.
How has ITI training changed you as an actor?
The main change is how physically engaged an actress I’ve become. In the past, I was often called an “intellectual” performer, someone who understands and explains the text but can't really feel it internally. Here, I developed a free and rooted instrument that can embody the characters I portray. Both intellectual and physical aspects of performing are essential, and I hope to find the true balance throughout my final year at ITI.
How have your initial expectations changed over the 3 years?
I came with many questions.
I will leave with many more.
That is the treasure of this school.
What do you hope to do after graduation?
My dream would be to join an international company, to keep on travelling to discover other cultures, maybe to start directing and share what I discovered here.
What would you say to someone thinking of joining ITI?
Joining ITI is like getting on a boat: there is a destination, but what you really enjoy is the journey!
Is there anything you’d like to say to your teachers, family and friends?
First, I want to warmly thank my family and friends who supported me in many different ways, without whom I couldn't be here at ITI - papa, maman, les filles, mamie et grand-père, bonne-maman, VTF et tous les autres - and Chathura for his patience.
I also want to thank the ensemble of teachers I met in both Singapore and France, who fed my passion and kept me hard-working. A special thank-you to our teacher Beto who patiently followed our cohort through the years.
To finish, I want to give a big merci to Sasi and the staff of ITI for taking such good care of us.
Photos by Bernie Ng