In Avignon, a monster piece that connects night and day

Posted on Monday, July 11, 2022 at 10:27 PM

“What asceticism!” The actress launches to the public. Or “They are masochists,” another actor jokes. At the Avignon Festival, theatrical epic tackles the challenge of keeping spectators seated for 13 hours…with few intermissions.

This is not the first. In 2018, Julien Josselin authored three ten-hour novels by American Don DeLillo, and in the same year, the festival’s outgoing director, Olivier Bey, presented his blockbuster “Ma Jeunesse exaltée” (also 10 hours).

At La Fabrica, one of the festival stages just outside the “City of the Popes,” the audience, which generally remained until the end, awoke around midnight to applaud loudly the 17 actors and actresses in “Nid of ashes,” by French playwright Simone Valguerre, 33.

After each of the four intermissions and two intermissions, two actors break into rapture (“They didn’t leave!”) and amuse themselves by cheering or teasing the audience.

In this seven-part epic that pits the real world against the world of fairy tales, we find a couple who abandon their child near a trailer for a mobile theater troupe and then, on the other hand, a sick queen—a kind of Western metaphor—plus a king and princess who want to cure him.

The two worlds, separated by a different and effective scenography, meet at the end of 13 hours, after a series of adventures where the tale blends with the news through different winks.

Despite the seemingly disjointed scenes, some of the onlookers interviewed by AFP at the end of this marathon appeared to have moved on to the experience.

says Judd Butel-Gans, 23, a social sciences student from Lyon.

– ‘We drift’ –

“We’re glad we continued, and we let ourselves get carried away,” laughs Marie Roux, 45, who was trained in this experience by her daughter Manon, 17, a student at the Paris Conservatoire. “But I think it’s hard to do it somewhere other than Avignon.”

“I think there are times when it could have been more in-depth but easy to follow,” her daughter comments.

Jolie, the director from Strasbourg, did not like these statements at all, but a nuance: “Take this time, to stop our clocks, it’s a nice gesture.”

The playwright and director has had the idea of ​​the river show for a very long time.

Passionate about theater since his teens – he wrote his first play at the age of 13 and went to the Avignon Festival from a young age – Simone Valguyer grew up with works such as Paul Claudel’s “Le Soulier de Satin” (11 a.m.), Shakespeare’s historical tragedies, or Pierre Gent, the famous play In five works by Labsen.

“I’ve been through many river crossings, especially at the Avignon Festival, but the first memory of the epic is +The Last Caravanserai + by Ariane Mnouchkine. It was a huge shock and brought on the dream of making a world-class piece,” he acknowledges.

He likes to reconnect with the origins of theater, and in particular “the first ancestral plays, among the Greeks, or Japanese Nô or Balinese theater: whole nights have gone on to tell endless things”.

Is this compatible with our societies today? “1pm can scare people a lot. I live in the Normandy countryside, and when I tell the locals I’m making a piece at 1pm, they look at me and say, ‘It’s your stories it’s yours’,” he laughs.

But, in a highly interconnected society, “it is a desire to tell people: + Come, we shall try to live a poetic journey together.”

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