I am often asked how the idea of this hotel between two worlds with its lift ever came to my mind. However hard I rack my brain, I cannot remember.
Where do ideas come from? Why do they besiege us? My characters are in a coma, a situation I have never experienced. But, I've seen some of my relatives and friends leave for this mysterious place. Some came back, others didn't. What strikes me most in the case of those who survived is how happy, how lively, how eager to live and to enjoy themselves they have become. They laugh themselves about the fact that they weren't very good at being alive before.
This metamorphosis made me think. Intimations of death and the discovery that our mortality is the main thread in the tapestry of life was not, as you might think, a tragedy for them, but an eye-opener: life is not to be taken for granted; it is a curious gift you enjoy better the second time it is offered you. Only those who have come back feel grateful. Might happiness have to do with thinking about death?
I've had 'marginal experiences' myself, one when I could have died and another when I should have died. Forgive me for not saying more about it. I've always refused to talk about my life. I prefer to filter it and put it into my characters's lives - in my writings, "I" is always a faked name. When I was at death's door, I was surprised, dumbfounded by the feeling that came over me: a feeling of serenity. I used to be scared by a spider, a nasty remark, an impassive face, a letter from my tax-collector (I still am!). And all of a sudden, there I was, feeling neither fear nor anxiety. I was no longer afraid, no longer anxious. I was left with a feeling of plenitude. A voice that was most likely not my own, kept telling me: "Everything is justified."
What is my play about? To let oneself go and embrace mystery. Not to fear the unknown any more and to accept what is bound to happen. Such is the bewildering journey Julien is going to make. Since the play was put on, I've been delighted to have people stop me in the street or in a restaurant. They catch my arm and whisper in my ear the following line they know by heart: "faith is like a little flame that throws light on nothing but which keeps you warm." When Julien gets to the hotel, he is a man of our time: he is pessimistic, materialistic and stressed; he drives too fast, loves too fast and thinks too fast. He has all the prejudices of today's ready-made thinking - what you might call negative convictions. This ideological burden is stifling him, preventing him from living and committing himself and it cuts him off from things and from other people. Being obliged to wait, forced to think about his destiny, compelled to meet all those people staying at the hotel, all this changes him radically. He leaves the place with a strength that is completely new to him: the strength to consent. The power of waiting…
At one time, I wanted to call my play, "The Wasting Room", but I gave up this title when I realized that nothing was ever wasted. I get asked a lot of questions about the strange Dr S. The same questions I've asked myself. And I'm not able to answer them all.
Why a doctor to organize this passage?
Because today, a doctor is the agent between death and us.
Why has the doctor several sexes?
Because the doctor is asexual.
Why the name: Dr S.?
I wanted the audience to ask themselves this question and I wanted them to find their own answer. I was given many solutions and I liked them all. 'DR S'. because 'doctoresse' (in French 'doctoresse' means a woman doctor), 'S' for 'Sphinx', 'Styx', 'Silence', 'Sign', 'Serenity', 'Science', 'Savoir' (knowledge) and 'Sagesse' (wisdom).
One evening in February 2000, Francine Bergé, the great French tragedienne, who did me the honour of playing Dr S., told me she had her own theory about the character. It was a most amazing one. She claimed that Dr S. and I (the playwright, the author) were one and the same person. We both make our characters enter and leave the stage, we have got files on every one of them, we refuse to tell what we know about them, we organize a psychodrama with real entrances and fake exits, we sadly admit that we have no power except inside the hotel (the stage) and none on earth (reality). Dr S. is like the playwright who can sometimes be a man, a woman and 'like you', Francine told me 'a messenger of the uncertain'.
I leave her the responsability for saying such beautiful things.
Baden-Baden, Germany, April 20th 2000