76ᵉ Avignon Festival: Serebrennikov hides

Would he be present in Avignon or not? Uncertainty has long hovered over the participation in the Avignon Festival by Russian artist Kirill Serebrennikov, a notorious opponent of the current regime and the war in Ukraine, who has been granted residence and sentenced to a suspended prison sentence. But the director of the opening show of the Avignon festival “Le Moine noir”, now in exile in Berlin, managed to make the wall find itself in front of another, as problematic as the first, the one from the Court of Honor in the Papal Palace. A natural setting that remains the obsession of any director, especially when a violent mistral is unleashed there, as was the case during the first performances.

Anton Chekhov’s short story, “The Black Monk”, tells the story of Andrei Krovin’s madness, a depressed intellectual who comes to recharge his batteries in the countryside with Pessotsky. The latter is a landowner who raised him, completely devoted to the cultivation of his fruit trees and to his daughter, Tania, whom the author wasted no time in asking to marry. But the worm, of madness, is in the fruit, because Krovine sees a ghost in the garden, the famous black monk, a kind of evil legend who gives the play its title. A spiral of hallucinations follows, which will sweep away both the intellect’s reason and the plateau of the Cour d’honneur in a series of tableaux of strong visual power. The three greenhouses that form the framework of the agricultural domain will be destroyed until the final desolation, the property and the characters in Chekhov’s short story.

Serebrennikov compiles the views of the characters who take up the same dialogue in outbursts through the play’s four acts, in which Krovin’s character is played by three different actors and Tania’s by two actresses of different ages. The personal stories thus weave the fabric of Serebrennikov’s play: the father overwhelmed by the marriage to his daughter Tania, who testifies to her rapid accident at the aggravation of Krovine’s mental state, which in turn is followed in his chaos, hallucinatory underlined by video effects, then finally spectrum in the last act. The dramatic progression is marked by the development of actor-dancers dressed in black, who in the last part of the play engage in a hypnotic ballet against the background of Gregorian ceremony, close to a shamanistic trance. Wonderful. All this in front of a huge disc at the back of the stage, representing the sun, whose protagonists ritually greet each sunset, which each time gives rise to one of the show’s strongest visual sequences.

Interpreted in German, English and Russian, the play is carried by the talent and fine energy of the actors from the Thalia Theater in Hamburg, with their inexhaustible resources, at the height of a show lasting almost three hours, which ends up playing all the curses: that of the exile of its director, of the misfortune of the protagonists, of the legend of the black monk, and finally of a mistral who drives people mad, as the Provencal proverb says.

From wall to wall

We go from one wall to the other, from the one of the Cour d’honneur to the one that surrounds the beautiful Cloître des Carmes, in the heart of Avignon, occupied by the partitions of a shaky building, which is the setting of the “Sans tambour “, another show that marked the first life at the Avignon Festival.

There is drama in the air. Swept by a violent mistral shaking the plastic fittings, the house is made of odds and ends up being taken over by the strange protagonists in the play directed by Samuel Achache. A couple is busy in a makeshift kitchen, between dishes and domestic reproaches. The man is preoccupied with the clogged sink and the woman with their relationship no longer opening up. She blames him for no longer dreaming of her, and him for having deceived her. A quintet of musicians enter the room and begin playing and singing songs by Schumann while the couple and the walls that hold it are smashed.

The demolition of the first by the wife and by the second of the spouse increases with murderous phrases and clubs until the scene turns into a field of ruins and rubble. No more love, no more walls, just a physical drive taking place on the first floor of a (madhouse?) House shaking on its foundations.

A show for the masses, both literally and snake-like, “Sans tambour” confronts the dazed and entertained spectator with a series of tragicomic events performed with drum beats, despite the title, which seems to say the opposite. All bathed in an atmosphere à la Marx Brothers or Jacques Tati maintained by a team of musicians-actors, whose performances sometimes involve physical performance,

It would be useless to want to list the show’s many situations and twists. We will recall that the methodical collapse of the decor is accompanied by the deconstruction of Schumann’s romantic music. How is it possible to rebuild a music as well as a relationship from a disaster? It is this question that Samuel Achache, the creator of musical shows, seems to want to put to the test, where philosophical reflection and humor, sometimes a bit of a schoolboy, struggle like rag pickers. Often funny, marked by a burlesque that is pressed by the absurd, which frees itself from the words, where humor is never far from an almost metaphysical concern, “Sans tambour” ends up winning its slightly crazy and ruined bet. the public warmed by the performance of amazing actors, led by these Sarah le Picard, Léo-Antonin Lutinier and Lionel Dray.

An exalted youth

Before leaving the Avignon Festival, Olivier Py presented “Ma jeunesse exaltée”, which he signs the lyrics, staging and songs of, a ten-hour show, which is one of the two marathons in this 76ᵉ edition. , the other being “Askereden” by 30-year-old Simon Falguières (13.00). The loop thus seems to be complete since Py debuted in 1995 at the Avignon festival with a play, “La Servante”, which lasted 24 hours. As he clarified at a press conference before, it is not about the author’s youth, but about a current generation of artists, a dozen in all, participating in this insane oscillating escapade, as the director himself says, between manifesto, celebration and pilgrimage.

The driving force behind this ten hour long show, the character of Harlequin, mythical figure of commedia dell’arte, polymorphic hero of a hike leading him to all the challenges, all the daring and all the betrayals, the man is geometric and varying morals. An engine that never stops over the four parts of “Ma jeunesse exaltée”, led by an extraordinary Bertrand de Roffignac in the costume of this Harlequin pizza delivery man who sticks to his skin.

Great lyrical soap opera, “Ma jeunesse exaltée” mixes all genres, goes from scam to scam in the tradition of Commedia, mixes with all topics: theater and culture of course, its good and bad servants, politics ditto, finance and its villains, finally religion , to which the author cuts cruppers without ever denying the faith that dwells in him. We cross the peaks of poetry, we talk a lot about Rimbaud, we stumble with the hero in vaudeville gutter, we wade through the farce puddles because Py is also a comic book writer, we get touched and we hit each other on the thighs, and above all we get excited at the sight of this exalted youth who runs, flies, loves, hates and takes revenge through a show that carries streams of emotion and laughter. Always question the performing arts, what makes theater or regrets it. “Something is Coming” shows in electric letters a garland placed above the stage at the beginning of the performance. When the actors come to greet at the end of an epic that took them to the end of themselves, we say to ourselves that this something will be resolutely beautiful.

“It is up to each generation to perhaps change the course of fate, but above all to invent its own story,” Olivier Py wrote in the editing of the program brochure for this issue, which he concluded with these words: “What the Avignon Festival is always instead of youth, for speech and for what is to come.His latest show is the perfect illustration of this.

A place for youth, the festival is also one with “One Song” by Belgian artist Miet Warlop. In this show, a group of artists occupy the courtyard of the Lycée Saint-Joseph transformed into an arena for a concert choreography, which is a real physical challenge in one hour, a real visual and audible shock from which we emerge at the same time. time groggy and happy.

Luis Armengol

  • The black monkuntil 15 July at the Cour d’honneur in the Palais des Papes at
  • without drumuntil 13 July at the Cloître des Carmes at
  • My exalted youth, until July 15th
  • A song, until July 14

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