In June 2015 I heard the sad news of the death of my old friend Jean-Philippe Jugand. He had been ill for some time but still, the reality of death always catches you unaware. And, of course, death always brings back memories.
Jean-Philippe wanted to change the world, not by politics – he rather detested and distrusted the kind of Politics with which we are familiar – but he sought change on a more primal and visceral level. He wanted to improve the status of mankind, though he might not have put it that way. At the same time, he wanted something vital and anarchic; something which can live as a dream, but which is hard to realize in writing or reality given the social structures we have. This desire for change explains his love of the theatre and the works of writers as varied as Alfred Jarry, Ionesco and Molière.
Jean-Philippe was a pioneer and an organizer. He dreamt up Le Théâtre des Iles, and drummed up the financial support which meant that for some years a small company of actors could travel from Wellington in New Zealand to some of the French speaking islands of the Pacific – New Caledonia, Vanuatu (New Hebrides as it was then) and Tahiti. Often our performances took place in isolated settlements, and to audiences who had never seen live theatre. The story of these adventures is yet to be written.
I composed the following poem to be read at J-P’s funeral. It celebrates some of the memories of those times.
And I remember…
for Jean-Philippe Jugand.
And I remember that young man coming,
Treading the long shady path down to Drama,
His walk, I observed, almost a running.
Urgent! A man with a mission, I thought
I did not know him, but that meant nothing
for I was new to Victoria too.
Perhaps, like me, he was a new teacher.
Perhaps, like me, he was just a bit lost.
But no. It was Monsieur. Mann he was seeking,
His accent French and his manner quite droll.
He had a an idea… would like my assistance…
Using Drama to make his students speak French.
Claire making Bouillabaisse, down by the sea
And J-P’s great vision, Le Theatre des Iles,
Ionesco and Molière, Jim, Jarry and me,
to name but a few of the students and friends
caught up by the dream.
Il Suffit d’un Baton. The laughter of children
Du Pétard à Ditchwater Creek.
The sun and the surf, the stars and the spiders,
Adventures and laughter to last us all week.
A long-distance friendship,
and two continents.
Bridging a turbulent sea
to settle at last
in a place called Choussy.
Alas! La recherche du temps perdu!
But remembering the good times.
Now, by the clear lens of memory,
Beyond dispute or descant
or the corrosive power of time and ailment….
Bon Voyage. Maestro.
Phillip Mann 26th June 2015