Artist of the Month-November-Gaelle Gognau-Koerckel

This month's AoM is Gaelle Gognau-Koerckel. Gaelle is an actress in the French and English theatre communities. It's nice to see someone bridging the gap between both. Bilingual performers are an important part of the Hong Kong acting landscape. If you've ever worked with Gaelle you know her hard-working spirit is infectious amongst the cast and her smile lights up a room. You can catch Gaelle in the upcoming Hong Kong People's Fringe Festival.


1. Name, Origin, Age:

Gaëlle Gognau-Koerckel, Nearby Paris, 32


2. How does where you were raised affect your work?

I grew up in a very multicultural city close to Paris; which taught me at a young age to appreciate cultures and beliefs different to mine. It definitely helps me to put myself in a character’s perspective.


3. Where did you train?

I trained in acting at Cours Florent in Paris. I take every opportunity to learn more about the craft of acting. Last year, I did an amazing training with an actor from Theatre du Soleil - this workshop was actually part of the first edition of HK People’s Fringe Festival. I am currently enrolled in a great Lecoq weekly workshop - taught by Ata Wong from Tang Shu-Wing Theatre Studio.

I would love to explore so many things: like Meyerhold and his biomechanics, plus a lot of Asian performance genres (Vietnamese water puppetry, Balinese theatre, etc.).


4. What is your favorite style of theatre? Why?

Physical Theatre. I think the body is the most powerful tool of an actor. I love words and literature but, on stage and in real life, non-verbal communication is the most significant part of any interaction.


5. What was the best show you EVER saw?

When I was 15, I saw a show in the fringe part of Festival d’Avignon; it is a bit blurry in my memory because it was long ago. I remember that it was a very poetic piece with almost no set, sad clowns and bubbles. And it was very moving. It’s the show that triggered my love for non-naturalistic performances.


6. What was the best show in HK you EVER saw? (You cannot say your own.) 

“Three Sisters” by the Japanese Dance Theatre Pappa Tarahumara at Cattle Depot Artist Village. The frustration of these three sisters was so powerfully conveyed with extremely talented dancers, a few words, props and hypnotic music. You can watch an extract here:


7.What piece of work are you the most proud of? (please include photo, if possible)

I am playing in “Bun in the Oven” at the end of November and it’s the first time that I am doing a “triple threat”: writing, acting and co-producing. I have to admit that I am terrified of going back on stage after almost a two-year break but I am proud of doing this show despite my hectic schedule at the moment!

As for writing, in 2009, I wrote a short story called “L’Enveloppe Rouge” which was published by La Table Ronde. This publishing house was actually founded by Jean Cocteau to publish “Antigone” by Jean Anouilh – and this happens to be my favourite play ever. So, the fact that a tiny part of my work has been recognised by this publishing house means a lot to me.

8. What is your process like?

I always explore the physicality of my character, how does she walk, what’s her primary mover (i.e the part of her body that moves first)…even when I am working on a very naturalistic project.

Sometimes, it is a very long process to find a character’s physicality. For instance, a few years ago, I was ensemble in “The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui” and I was playing a lot of different characters including a three-lines maid part. For a long while, I did not know how to make her physically distinct from the other characters I was playing. And, then one day I tried to make her walk, or almost run, in a fun, floppy way, a bit like a penguin. And that was that, I think it worked very well.


9. What is your dream project?

I have a lot of dream projects but, in Hong Kong, I would love to have the opportunity to work with Theatre du Pif. It is one of the few companies in Hong Kong that produces cross-cultural works. I recently liked their “A Doll’s House” and, of course, their “Antigone” (Anouilh’s version) a few years ago.


10. If you could change one thing about the art scene in HK, what would it be?

More subventions, venues, cross-cultural works, etc ! I am optimistic about how the scene is evolving recently with initiatives such as HK Fringe People’s Fringe Festival and Shakespeare in the Port. Also, this year H.K.Arts Festival is presenting a new play written and performed in English; it’s called “F.I.L.T.H” and it stars local western actors. This is very encouraging.


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