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Une Histoire Vraie

a physical theater show

Creation and staging

Lionel Ménard

Dramaturgical support Mário Primo | Cast Helena Rosa, Mafalda Marafusta, Marina Leonardo, Raul Oliveira, Rogério Bruno e Tomás Porto | Light design Rui Senos | Musical selection Lionel Menárd Sound disgn João Martinho | Scene props Collective work | Scenography Helena Rosa, Lionel Ménard e Rita Carrilho | Scene carpentry  Natália Terlecka e Pedro Mira | Seamstress Florbela Santos | Photography Victormar | Graphic design Ricardo Lychnos


AJAGATO Production 2022


To Mathilde Mariat and especially to all who participated on the Masterclass, in June 2022, a big thank you! This creation is also yours.



Pauline returns to her childhood home moved by a distressing question that has been with her for a long time. She revisits the places she keeps in his memory and finds disturbingly revealing signs about her origins. In recent years, she has done a lot of research, looking for clues and now childhood memories merge with factual findings, reports and omens. Piece by piece, Pauline reconstructs the story of her life and sees her greatest fears confirmed; however, she also discovers that, beneath the unnerving image of the Tenardier couple, who raised her as a daughter, there is a hidden and moving manifestation of love. In the end she will have to make a brave decision. Will Pauline be able to avenge her parents' memory and do the justice she claims?


34 years of theatrical activity led GATO, through various paths, to the exploration and discovery of different techniques and expressive languages. However, the importance given to non-verbal communication and the fusion of body expression with dance has always been dominant in most of our shows. The group was already doing physical theater even before knowing that what they were doing could have that name.


“Vai Vem”, staged in 2015, under the direction of the Colombian director Juan Carlos Agudelo, enriched the company's repertoire with a more technical and “silent” proposal, in a country where this language has few followers. This play opened doors to the company's internationalization and created a network of contacts that we want to reinforce with this new production, which, being also a physical theatre without text, now bets on a concrete story and a more narrative process.


The challenge we proposed to the French director Lionel Ménard was justified by the knowledge and appreciation for five of his creations that we brought to Portugal, three of them with the Polish company Warsaw Mime Center and the other two with the Czech company of Lenka Vagnerová and the German company of Alexander & Neander. It should be noted that this last show won the audience award for the LITORAL EmCena project in 2021. The training Lionel led here that year confirmed the mutual desire to extend this collaboration in 2022 with a Masterclass and a theatrical creation project. Lionel Ménard, the creator of shows with strong and unforgettable images, accepted the challenge and suggested the theme, methodology and process.


War has mouths and the mouths of war do not kiss other mouths, but rather spit on the ground.

Once upon a time, there was a family of refugees fleeing war. The mother did not survive the long journey and a couple of farmers agree to hide the father and his baby daughter. However, they will stay there much longer than expected... What will lead the couple to make the refugee believe that the war is not over yet?


Nothing is completely black or white, as no one is. All the characters in this story face a dilemma. Will they have the courage to assume the truth? They all struggle with their states of mind, revealing throughout the play a part of humanity and another part of cowardice. Is this not the mirror of our own lives?

​Every day there are tragic news. Faced with the shipwrecked people of precarious boats, our empathy lasts only a few days. But these stories are true!

Outside, in the snow, men, women and children wait to cross the border, while we, in the warmth of our homes, prepare ourselves to celebrate Christmas. These stories are true!

The bombing of the civilian population temporarily fuels our anger. However, we are more concerned about next weekend...


We witness injustices and atrocities, but the amount and frequency of the news trivializes all the cruelty and makes us forget that only yesterday we were shouting “never again! ".

Without value judgments or a Manichean view, “Une histoire vraie” shows us that the answers are almost always complex and varied, questioning our attitude towards the misfortune of others.

If I knew I loved him so much, I would love him more.

At the beginning of Claude Lelouch's film "Les Misérables" there is a scene with an amorous couple. Annie Girardot says nothing or cannot say. Fabrice Benichoux, the Jewish refugee, watches her and waits. That is the most beautiful declaration of love I've ever seen. Annie Girardot, the peasant woman, hides this refugee, making him believe that the war is going on so that he won't leave. Surprised by my emotion when I saw this scene, I searched my memory for reasons to understand it better. From deep inside me came my last encounter with my father. "We looked at each other for a moment, just a few suspended seconds, each of us holding the words. Then my father turned and walked away... I would have liked to make up a story to hold him there, but nothing occurred to me, nothing."


At the age of 30, the possibility of having had another father emerged from my unconscious, as if out of a heap of mud. Thus began an obsessive search for the truth. I see myself looking for clues, questioning, separating what is true from the false. I needed to put a puzzle back together, get my hands dirty, dig, remove the earth, dry my eyes. Finally, it was a written sentence that brought me peace. A few words from a testament: “Lionel, son of Jean”.


In this play I am Mafalda, the one who finds writings engraved on stone.


There was nothing left but to bridge the gap between the research into my father's identity and this scene from the movie "Les Misérables". In the training course, I started by inviting the participants to reveal some of their secrets, their greatest moments of happiness, the fantastic coincidences of their stories. Everyone, from that initial training to the last few weeks of rehearsals, was able to help me build the bridge.


This project started in Poland a few years ago, on the initiative of Bartlomiej Ostapczuk, and now carried out in Santo André thanks to AJAGATO. Mário Primo was like a father to me – benevolent, encouraging, and uncompromising.


In each of the characters there is identification with my story, but there are also real tragedies told in wartime. Theatre is often criticized for isolating itself from the world. I hope the tragic news of facts makes sense to the public.


Last but not least, I thank my magnificent actors who inspired me, convinced me, questioned me, and helped me find the way.


The ball of yarn is now untangled.

The story has become true.

Lionel Ménard


Misty stage, of memories and shadows.

Black earth, food of life and shroud of the dead.

Fresh clay, mask of time and second skin.

Earthy pigments of various origins.

Water for drinking, washing and waking up.

Costumes recreated from used clothes, restored to their original function.

Linen fabrics hand in hand with cotton and burlap.

Stained, discolored and worn woods.

Buckets, lots of buckets of burnt old zinc.

A haze dimming the lights and making the reading of bodies and materials uniform.

A dissonant red costume marking the passage of time and the epilogue of this story.

Tears of earth in innocent eyes...

Here are, in general terms, the stage aesthetics of this play, in which the symbolic and the surreal serve a poetic, dense and cold narrative, in a universe where the bewilderment of the world brings out the darkest side of human nature. The scenic space looms large with the lights, it penetrates us, sucks us in like a black hole and the monochrome nature of the scenography and costumes on the dark, and ground floor of the stage highlights the emotional density of the play.


Mário Primo



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