Philippe Quesne

From Plato to Bin Laden, through famous places in literature and cinema. I want to question this allegory of the cave. (...) Theatre is an art of the basement.

The director of the Theatre des Amandiers in Nanterre, Philippe Quesne experiments, playing with conventions of the genre to create a world with uncertain outlines, combining dreams and materials, allegories and experiments, theatre and fine arts.

Updated on 10/02/2021

2 min

Born in 1970, Philippe Quesne was educated in fine arts at the École Estienne and then at the Arts décoratifs in Paris. For 10 years he worked as a director and stage designer for theatre and opera, and created various exhibitions.

In 2003, he put on his first show, The Itching of the Wings (“La Démangeaison des ailes”), with the Vivarium Studio company. As a child the artist collected bugs and raised stick insects: He “campaigns for a theatre of observation”, immersing his actors, whose evolution he watches like an entomologist, in various ecosystems: a small apartment in The Serge Effect (“L’Effet de Serge”) (2007), the cosmos in Big Bang (2011), wetlands in Swamp Club (2013).

Since 2014, Philippe Quesne has been head of the Nanterre-Amandiers National Drama Centre.

Since 2003, Philippe Quesne has built a unique oeuvre, between the theatre and fine arts, full of the poetry of little things and an ironic melancholy. Less spoken than visual, each play is a sensory experience. He sometimes conjures up pyrotechnic effects (flames, smoke bombs, lasers), transforming the stage into an experimental field or theatre of installations.

From a failed rock band in a snowy clearing (The Melancholy of Dragons (“La Mélancolie des dragons”), 2008), to moles turning their underground gallery into a concert hall (Night of the Moles (“La Nuit des taupes”), 2016), Philippe Quesne invites his spectators to enter parallel universes, where characters, materials, light and music create strange, fantastical scenes.

With Caspar Western Friedrich in 2016, he turned towards the mythical universe of the Western and German romanticism, creating fascinating landscapes.

Philippe Quesne's plays cross both borders and theatre walls.

In Nanterre-Amandiers, in May 2015, Philippe Quesne thus staged a simulation of the United Nations Climate Change Conference, The Negotiation Theatre (“Le Théâtre des négociations”), a group creation involving 200 students from all over the world. Welcome to Caveland! involved the participation of Thai actor and film-maker Apichatpong Weerasethakul for an immersive experience, Fever Room, a combination of an art installation and a cinema.

Swamp Club by Philippe Quesne
Swamp Club by Philippe Quesne
  • 2003


    Philippe Quesne presents his first show with the Vivarium Studio company, The Itching of the Wings, at the Dijon Friction Festival.

  • 2010


    He is nominated for a Molière award for best set design for The Melancholy of Dragons.

  • 2013


    At the Avignon Festival, Swamp Club portrays a struggling arts centre, perched on stilts in the middle of a swamp filled with strange creatures, aquatic and otherwise.

  • 2016


    For around 20 days, Welcome to Caveland! occupies various spaces in Nanterre-Amandiers, following the underground rhythm of a burrow whose galleries and tunnels include all the arts: parades, theatre (with Night of the Moles), installations, concerts...

  • 2018


    Crash Park, la vie d’une île est monté au Théâtre Nanterre-Amandiers, puis entame une tournée internationale.

  • 2019


    Philippe Quesne crée Farm Fatale au Münchner Kammerspiele de Münich.

The Institut français and the artist

Philippe Quesne took part in the 2021 Night of Ideas organized by the Institut français of Russia.

An annual meeting devoted to the free movement of ideas and knowledge, the Night of Ideas is coordinated by the Institut français.

Find out more about the Night of Ideas


The Melancholy of Dragons (“La Mélancolie des dragons”) and The Serge Effect (“L'Effet de Serge”) by Philippe Quesne toured Europe and Iran in 2018 with the support of the Institut français, which also supported, in 2016, the international distribution of Night of the Moles (“Nuit des taupes”).


L'institut français, LAB