Theatre series at the Festival of Avignon

Théâtre en série au Festival d’Avignon

Photo: Boris Horvat Agence France-Presse
Known for his shakespearian trilogy with a duration of 13 hours, the actor and stage director Thomas Jolly dons this summer the clothes of Atreus in the tragedy, “Thyeste”, of Seneca.

In recent years become the mecca of live performances at the long course and serials panting, Avignon invites the spectators to long sagas or works deployed in episodes daily. Attempt to imitate Netflix, or return to the foundations of the ancient theatre ? What is certain, is that the theatrical series, becomes inlayed for good and attracts the crowds, in spite of the constraints of production and the reluctance of those that the long forms are used to terrorize.

At Fabrica, the room specifically built for big productions of the festival, the young director Julien Gosselin has opened the edition 2018 with an ambitious piece inspired by three novels from the American Don De Lillo, Player, Mao II and The names. Three parts of more or less three hours and a half, encamped in the same theatrical device, scalable in an even tone, dramatic, worn by a troupe of actors that has been a pleasure to watch metamorphose.

Théâtre en série au Festival d’Avignon

Photo: Christophe Raynaud de Lage, Festival d’avignon
To the Fabrica, the young director Julien Gosselin has opened the edition 2018 with an ambitious piece inspired by three novels from the American Don De Lillo, “Player” (our photo), “Mao II” and “The names”.

Between evocations of the terrorist threat and explorations of a certain empty existential western, the stage director well known in Quebec for his energetic adaptation of the elementary Particles, Houellebecq, leads us into the creases and folds of the writing of Don De Lillo, through a critique of increasingly fierce of America. His show is very cinematic, designed according to the principle of the making of a film live, creates in the long term effect disorder of theatricality in the cinema and engages us in a reflection on a society that is saturated with images. Among others.

The divine explosion of the frame

One enters the theatre at 15 h under the flag of provence by arming yourself with bottles of water ; it emerges at 1 h in the charm power of the night. Meanwhile, we also have ate a bite and took a drink during intermission, and there will be especially little by little, untied his tie. Ten hours of show, it is good enough to shatter the decorum of theater : we sit comfortably, we cannot resist to the moments of drowsiness or surges of energetic of the body, before to imitate the neighboring seat, with which we had a little chat at the break, and who has dared strip his feet. The French people are fond of these theatrical experiences radical, that make the theatre a real space of gathering.

Théâtre en série au Festival d’Avignon

Photo: Christophe Raynaud de Lage / Festival d’avignon
A scene of the trilogy of Julien Gosselin

“It allows you to abolish the relation of the consumer to the works “, exclaims the actor and stage director Thomas Jolly, known for his trilogy on Henry VI , which stretched out over 13 hours at the festival in 2014. Met in the Cour d’honneur of the popes ‘ Palace, where he had the honor of creating Thyeste, the opening show of the Avignon 2018, it remembers its colossal adventure shakespearean with force details. “When the viewer comes to see 13 hours of show, it doesn’t come to see a show, he comes to share a life time. After a certain number of hours, the conveniences disappear, and suddenly the theatre as a place of gathering and collective becomes a reality. “

Invited this year to orchestrate the order paper daily citizen, which attracts every day at noon a tide of spectators, the stage director from rouen David Bobée has also thirst for this collective experience. “It ends up creating links with some of the spectators who are waiting for you every day,” enthuses the one that Montrealers will know him from his performances Cannibals, Warm and love Letters, presented at Espace Go in recent seasons.

Théâtre en série au Festival d’Avignon

Photo: Christophe Raynaud de Lage, Festival d’avignon
A scene from “Ladies, gentlemen and the rest of the world” of the director rouen David Bobée

Known as an artist-activist against sexism and racism, it is devoting its 13 episodes to reflections on the concept of gender and on the discrimination experienced by people racialized. Inequality between men and women, invisibilisation of women, masculinity, toxic, fragile men, homophobia, transphobia, racism of omission : anything goes.

“The daily soap opera of Avignon is a journey that is extremely political,” he said. Stand in front of the spectators with a new episode each day allows us to dissect a subject by successive layers and really dig deep. And as the shape is simple and spontaneous, in this case, there is a real space of dialogue with the audience. Each day adds a piece to the puzzle and it enlarges the territory. “

The power of seriality

When Thomas Jolly has offered his shakespearian trilogy in the form of an immense saga, the critics were not slow to see the influence of television, comparing it gladly the room to a series acclaimed as Game of Thrones. The similarities are undeniable, but because the tv draws it-the same of Shakespeare, and not the opposite !

On Netflix or in the Cour d’honneur of the popes ‘ Palace, the public has thirst for sagas. But why now ? Where is this situation conducive to the seriality ? Thomas Jolly has his little theory on the subject. “Shakespeare wrote his tragedies, historical to a baroque era, at a time when the great national narrative, English became cloudy and where the country was going through profound changes. I believe that the theatre is broad, epic, and highly narrative that invents Shakespeare to represent this reality helped to tame the time. “

And it’s the same now, ” continues Thomas Jolly. “We live at any point in a time similar to this one, an age of neo-baroque, characterized by a collapse of the great utopias, an environment that is eroding, vertigo, technological, the rise of populism and the erosion of democracy. It is reflected in our cultural behaviors and restores our thirst for great stories. “

Not to mention that, in the long term, the reflection proposed policy by the works is rich. “Henry VI is not the story of two families at war with each other to get the Crown, adds Thomas Jolly. This is the story of a people who are dying. And this, seen only in the continuity, because on the long, Shakespeare develops this collapse on all levels, through the kings, the people, the women, the men, the French, the English, the dukes. “

This is a subject in which you know probably other directors and subscribers to the major forms, such as the Flemish Ivo Van Hove, who comes to propose to Montréal’s version of the tragedies from Shakespeare’s historical, Kings of Wars. The good news : the directory explorer is still vast, of Cromwell, Victor Hugo, Emperor and Galilean, Ibsen, through the Bible or the Mahabharata.

And, the saga, on the boards of Québec ?

With an audience less numerous, and their production structures more fragile, the quebec theatre has not yet ventured much in the sagas and soap operas which delighted the european public. The thing is part of our DNA since the 1980s, when Jean-Pierre Ronfard, and the New Experimental Theatre (NTE) have décoincé the classics in the saga the Life and death of king lame. Played at the time in its original version of 15 hours, the piece was revisited in the year 2000 by the Theatre Fund of the Drawer, who has made a representation of 8 hours. Following this tradition, the NTE has come back with a project in the long course in 2013-2014, history revealed the French Canada. In the meantime, we had some significant frescoes of Robert Lepage’s the Seven streams of the river Ota to Lypsinch, passing by The dragons ‘ trilogy. If one adds to the trilogy Le sang des promesses, Wajdi Mouawad, first presented in parts decomposed before forming a long show of 11 hours, and the Five Kings of the Theatre PAP in 2015, the portrait is complete.