Post by kerouac2 on Jul 15, 2017 13:15:57 GMT
This year I cut back a bit and saw 9 plays over three days. I think that 3 plays a day is now the proper rhythm for me, because back in the times when I would see 4 or 5 shows in one day, it was just too exhausting. Also, it was extremely hot most of the time that I was in Avignon, and I had no desire to rush around from place to place.
Rien plus rien au monde - Théâtre de l'Albatros (original title: Niente, più niente al mondo)
This is an Italian play by Massimo Carlotto, who is a prolific author of crime novels. It is about a cleaning woman with a very hard life. She is alone on the stage with two musicians in the background. Someone has been knocking at the door, and she worries about her appearance. My hair is a mess, I had better change my dress, what is my daughter going to think? She is a drunkard ("only 4 or 5 bottles of port wine a week") but needs to unwind, because it is hard to make ends meet. She would like to buy the things that she sees on televisions, but it is so hard to save any money, and the neighbourhood is going downhill with all of these immigrants, not that they are bad people but they are not like us. She sees such nice things in the homes that she cleans and she hopes that her daughter will be able to live in a place like that. She adores her young adult daughter who is still living at home and who, unlike her mother, is having fun with her life. The monologue goes all over the place while the musicians play softly in the background. It appears that the knocking on the door is becoming more and more insistant. Oh, she should straighten up the apartment a bit, not her daughter's room though, that would be too much of a problem. It must be the police. Isn't there anyway to get the stains out of that bedroom? Those TV shopping knives are really sharp and she didn't really mean to have that argument with her daughter...
We were a grand total of two spectators on that first day of the performance, but the actress really put her guts out on the stage, and there was not a dry eye when she finished, neither her nor her musicians nor the two of us who came to see them. We talked for a few minutes afterwards, but it is always quick because they have ten minutes to remove everything from the stage and then the next play has ten minutes to set up.
War and Breakfast -Théâtre Laurette
This is by British playwright Mark Ravenhill and is his sort of title since his first successful play was called Shopping and Fucking. The full work consists of something like 20 short individual scenes, but the Avignon version was something like eight or so. The setting is 12 friends at a sumptuous brunch buffet. They are on chairs on both sides of the stage, but half of them get up from time to time to act out scenes that they have witnessed at various times, perhaps on assignment for an NGO. The first couple are rather lighthearted, but not for long. One vignette has a rescured woman sitting on a chair in rags while being interrogated by an aid worker.
"Could I please have some water and something to eat?"
"Of course, you can, once our medical team has made an evaluation of your condition."
"But I'm so thirsty, please give me some water."
"All in good time. This won't take long."
"Please, I can't take it anymore."
"Of course, but we need to answer some questions first. Did the evacuation bus arrive on time?"
"You're only making the wait longer by not answering the questions. Did you receive assistance to get on the bus?"
Naturally, it become more and more unbearable... 12 actors on stage, 10 spectators.
Le Médecin Malgré Lui Los Angeles 1990 - Théâtre des 2 Galeries
This is Molière's classic farce The Doctor in Spite of Himself from 1666 with a twist. It opens on Skid Row in Los Angeles and Sganarelle and Martine start with their usual fight and then the valets arrive looking for medical assistance for their employer's daughter who is clearly ill since she doesn't want to marry the designated fiancé. Sganarelle having gone off to do his usual dumpster diving, Martine tells them that her husband is a great but eccentric doctor but will deny it, so you might have to torture him. It being 1990 and not 1666, they use a taser on him. He is soon set up in a new medical office where he sits popping pills, sniffing ether and drinking anything that comes in a bottle. It is as wonderful a play as ever and can be set in any period of time -- it works in all of them, while respecting the original dialogue.
7 actors on stage, 40 spectators.
The next day, can you imagine that all three plays that I saw made use of leaf blowers? How likely is that?
L'hiver quatre chiens mordent mes pieds et mes mains - Théâtre du Grenier à Sel
In the winter four dogs bite my feet and hands. This play is by Philippe Dorin and shows the life of a man and a woman through the four seasons. She comes from a land of snow, he comes from a world of trees. They get to know each other, have two children, the seasons pass. It is supposedly wonderfully poetic, but it did nothing for me, especially the second half when the children arrived. There was no reason for them to be there.
15 spectators, 4 actors.
C'est toujours un peu dangereux de s'attacher à qui que ce soit - Collège de la Salle
There is always a strong Belgian presence at the Avignon Off, because it perfectly suits the Belgian temperament. This spectacle by Eno Krojanker and Hervé Piron attempts to reverse the saying that "there are no bad spectators, only bad plays" by proving with quirky charm and a lot of determination that we were not good spectators. It was both nonsensical and delightful. At one point we all had to wear a mask resembling one of the actors.
full house - 80 spectators, 2 actors
Garden Party - Théâtre de l'Oulle
This is an aristocratic garden party with gowns and tuxedos and chandeliers and countless bottles of champagne. France is in decline, moral values are deteriorating, money is a constant battle, and the time has come for the élite to show the way. This play has no real dialogue. You can catch a few words from time to time in French, English, Italian, German, but the actors are basically mumbling gibberish with grand gestures, excessive laughter and exaggerated reactions to everything. And it all gradually disintegrates into chaos, the furniture destroyed, the chandeliers on the ground, bottles rolling around, wigs flying, people dying... It is both funny and horrifying. Poor people would never want to attend such a party.
full house - 170 spectators, 9 actors
Thomas Quelque Chose - Fabrik Théâtre
Thomas Something or Other. I really loved this play by Frédéric Chevaux. It's about a boy just trying to be happy. His big brother has moved away from home, and his mother is inconsolable; she just mopes and does nothing and tells Thomas that anyway he was just an accident, so he is sure that she doesn't love him. He has a best friend Grégoire, and they spend a lot of time together, but he has never been to Grégoire's house. He goes to find Grégoire at his piano teacher's house. She is a very sensual Felliniesque woman, but Grégoire isn't there -- he cancelled his lesson. Even though Thomas is terrified at the thought of crossing the empty lot, he does so and ends up at Grégoire's house. He can hear from outside that they are having a birthday party for Grégoire's sister. He didn't even know that Grégoire had a sister! Grégoire comes out to gently scold him for showing up unannounced, but then the sister comes out, too. She has a big metal brace on her leg. She offers him some birthday cake, and Thomas understands that Grégoire had kept his sister a secret because he was afraid of being rejected...
Anyway, later on when Thomas goes home, he finds that his mother has been secretly reading his favourite book. "It's so wonderful -- those sailboats and all of those places that they go!" She loves him after all.
It is a remarkably simple play, designed for a youthful audience (I saw it was based on a teen novel marked 'ages 12-16'), but the performances were exceptional. I also find it incredible that suspension of disbelief works so much more easily in theatre than in cinema. All of the actors were adults, but just putting the boys in shorts and knee socks instantly allowed one's brain to place an appropriate age on them.
15 spectators, 5 actors. At least a dozen of the spectators were the family of the actor playing Thomas, including mother, father, brother, uncle... That must put a lot of pressure on anyone. On top of that they took about 75 photos with their phones during the play, which was quite annoying. Normally of course that is not allowed, but nobody was going to stop them on this occasion. They were very proud of their offspring, since I missed none of their conversation. "He's going to be in a play with Nicole Croisille in the autumn! It's just a small role, but it's Paris!"
L'Enseignement de l'Ignorance - Pandora Théâtre
The Teaching of Ignorance. This is based on the book by Jean-Michel Michéa. It is a very intelligent work of political rhetoric, but in my opinion, it makes a terrible play. Play? 50% of the time, the words of the book were just projected on a screen while one of the "actors" read it out loud.
Basically, everything is organised by the "system" to dumb us down, remove our critical intelligence and make us docile consumers willing to be manipulated by capitalist forces. When modern society reaches a certain stage of development, it puts on the brakes to prevent additional progress and pollutes the mind of the people with the same promise of bread and circuses that has been used going back to Roman times. Every cultural revolution instigated by the Left have just been stepping stones to allow Capitalism to leap forward.
Worthy of a debate? Certainly. My cup of tea for a summer theatre festival? No, thank you.
full house - 100 seats (the Avignon Off is the playground of paper revolutionaries), 2 performers
Bashir Lazhar - Théâtre des Béliers
This is the Québec play by Evelyne de la Chenélière that was later made into the Oscar nominated movie Monsieur Lazhar in 2011. It is a play with just one person, who talks to his class, the principal, the administrators, the immigration authorities, smetimes just to himself. The actor Thomas Drelon was extraordinary. Bashir Lazhar left Algeria during the religious troubles, leaving his wife and children at home until he got settled. His new life is not easy. In fact, he is not even a qualified teacher -- his wife is the teacher in the family, but he knows enough from her to be able to fake it, especially with small children. Even though he says there will be a delay in getting the necessary diplomas and certificates forwarded from home, the school is desparate because the previous teacher hanged herself. He does not hide this from the class because death is quite common in Algeria, albeit perhaps not suicide, but the parents and school officials do not appreciate his honesty. And then his wife and children are killed in Algeria, but he keeps going -- what else is there to do? In the end he is fired and replaced by another person. He tells the chidren to behave and learn as much as they can...
full house - 50 seats, 1 actor.
And that's how I spent my 3 days in Avignon. I will return.