Multilingual Encounters: Bilingual Performer Marion Geoffray

1.  Who are you and where are you based?

My name is Marion Geoffray, originally from South of France, I’ve been living in the UK for over 10 years. I’m a performer, creative practitioner and the artistic director of “Theatre Sans Accents” a bilingual theatre company based in Edinburgh that promotes language learning through the arts and produces original pieces of theatre by multilingual and multicultural artists living in Scotland.

2.  What languages do you know and use?

I use French and English on a daily basis, can speak Italian, Spanish and have some knowledge of Gaelic and Occitan.

3. Summarise your area of work.

My work both as an artist and a creative practitioner is to widen our linguistic horizon through the use of drama. I work both in school and community settings, encouraging children and adults alike to shift their perspective of language learning from a strict academic assessment based approach to a more playful, sensory and physical experience. By combining my own personal experience of bilingualism and professional theatre training, I developed methods to build confidence, develop vocabulary and improve elocution through drama games.

As a production company, we want to offer a platform for other bilingual artists to express themselves and show their work. The performances we create include diverse cast and creative teams, sometimes several languages and tend to explore and challenge our conceptions of communication in the theatre space.

Scotland is a rich diverse nation that many call home and it is paramount for us to reflect this in our work.

4. The ‘so what?’ question – how can we learn or benefit from your work?

I originally set up Theatre Sans Accents in a bid to create my own work as I felt I was constantly typecast as an actor as “the foreigner”. I wanted to show that I was more than an hybrid accent at a cultural crossroad while also reflecting on this cultural and linguistic hybridity. I see now more and more artists “like me” in the British theatrical landscape but there’s still work to be done. Whenever I run workshops where participants want to learn or practice their linguistic skills through drama and I see them coming out feeling more confident, using even just a couple of words they’ve learnt on the day or with new tools to experience their target language then I know this is working. Likewise when I put on a show and audience members come afterwards to share their own experience and tell me that they could relate to what i was saying or that regardless of the language spoken on stage, they “get it” then it comforts me in the idea that we are all inherently multi-lingual individuals in some ways and that theatre is one of the mediums that allow effective and successful communication between us all. I’m interested in further developing my practice especially from a psychological point of view and explore how bilingual people can “see” and understand the world differently, can be different individuals in different languages. For me, this is an intriguing point of tension between performance and languages.

Find out more about Marion’s work on the Theatre Sans Accents website. And read about the first Edinburgh Multilingual Stories Festival in 2018, which was co-directed by Marion with Bilingualism Matters Edinburgh and other community partners.