10.00 that morning, the small hall of the Théâtre Présence Pasteur was very full. A few children, many adults. The story: two twins, a boy and a girl, wonder about their world, where they live, and where the sexes are reversed. Here, women dominate, unthinkable that a man becomes, for example, the “president of the republic”. Street names bear the names of famous women, advertisers use men as objects of desire to sell a car, men who, of course, take care of children. Street harassment, school results, vocations … On stage, with a few objects and a lot of punch, the two actors, Léna Bréban herself and Antoine Prud’homme de la Boussinière, dismantle many received ideas and sexist clichés. In a theatrical form of 30 minutes, no more, always followed by a debate of the same duration, where everyone can go there with their reflection or their anecdote.
france info : This show Breathtaking you played it in college, why come and present it here at the Festival Off d’Avignon?
Lena Breban: I really wanted to play Breathtaking for all target groups. What is happening here interests me, with the grandmothers coming with the grandchildren. We had already realized by playing it in high school in 5th grade that teachers would watch this show with their own kids. Adults really talk to them because we girls have all experienced the same thing.
How did you come up with the idea for this show for 5th graders?
It comes from a conversation with my producer: on a project I wanted it written author and he told me Phew! We got into a fight. And then I read Florence Hinckel’s book published by L’Ecole des loisirs, and it went from there. What I find ingenious in Florence Hinckel’s text is the humor. I was missing that front door, and yet I said to myself: you must have plenty of time to talk about this otherwise it’s pretentious, lesson giver, all I hate. Laugh and talk. Hinckel gave me the key.
This show has toured many high schools?
It was produced by the Espace des Arts de Saône-et-Loire, of which I am an associate artist, it has even been filmed elsewhere than in this department. It’s super refreshing to go to classes, but you never sell the show without the discussion that follows. It’s my way of campaigning, it’s an extremely important topic for me, essentially. My dream for years to come would be to play it in the afternoon at a college and in the evening in front of a family audience.
Are the clichés you condemn still dying harsh?
There is still work to be done! Especially on the representations that the girls have of themselves, for example, they do not speak, it is the boys who speak, it is our observation of 220 dates. I had to think about how I was going to get the girls to talk. They are very concerned with being beautiful, that’s what comes out. It’s crazy to ask a human being to prioritize something over which he has no control.
You who had a crazy year, with the success we know for your game As you would like according to Shakespeare (4 Molières) did not choose a relaxing holiday?
It’s a little weird (thoughtful laughter). I have never left the theater area. Even during Shakespeare, I continued to go on college dates, it was important to me. And during imprisonment, small sketches played under the windows of nursing homes (it was called Cabaret under the balconies), it brought back something that I missed terribly: that people could come and talk to us and see them in broad daylight. Before I had been very protected, I came from big theaters, I played with big directors, I ate after the show with my partners, and basically I had no contact with the public. This lockdown has already reminded me why I am doing this job. Moreover, Shakespeare’s actors all have this wish, Barbara (Schulz) likes people she wants in dialogue.
Just these 4 Molières (including that of best actress for Barbara Schulz) were a nice surprise?
It is brittle ! This Shakespeare started from a story about friendship with Barbara that I had already played with. I was glad that his work was recognized. Everyone could see the beauty of this woman. And Ariane Mourier (Molière in the second role), formidable, was also rewarded and the second Molière … (including that of Léna Bréban for best director). When I was little, I well remember seeing the ceremony, I was obsessed with theater, and I said to myself that maybe one day I would receive a Molière. It is not the most important thing, but it is rewarding and super pleasing.
What does the Avignon Festival represent to you?
I am very fascinated by people who love theater. I say to myself, they are coming on their holiday, it is expensive to come to Avignon, you have to find accommodation, buy tickets … I share the passion for theater with these people who are and so the whole history of the theater has been through there: Cour d’honneur, Jean Vilar … One of the most beautiful shows I’ve seen is here: Bernadette de Platel.
Avignon is also very sweaty?
Yes, now I find myself pulling, it’s super fun, it forces you to be insanely humble. I’m leaving “Yes she received 4 Molières” on “Hi, we’re playing a piece on equality at 10, for children and teenagers …”.
Does towing work?
It works completely! For the voice it is not very good, it is very noisy here, so you have to shout to talk to people and try to catch them. We said to ourselves, with Antoine Prud’homme, my partner, that the beauty here is that festival guests say to you: tell me about your show, tell me … And suddenly we have to tell them why they should definitely come and see us. Sometimes we get terrible tears. The other day I said to a lady she was with her three sons: “hey it’s about equality”. “Ah yes? Well I do not believe in it, I raise my boys that way it is, and I do not believe in feminism either. Have a good day!”.
How do you organize your days?
I get up early, we put the set up, we play, we take the set down. Then we go to see shows. Tomorrow night I’m going to Samuel Achache’s (Sans Tambour). The other day I heard a girl pull next to me, I thought to myself ah the track looks good so I go. And then rest after a very intense year. I told myself I was going to party too much in Avignon! In fact, not at all, I’m home in the evening, serene. And then I have employment contracts. A musical show on Colette that I am preparing, it is produced by Espace des Arts in Chalon.
Would you like to participate in the In-festival?
Of course I would like to instruct in. I would also love to play. But my dreams are not of that order. I would like to work with Wajdi Mouawad for example, in in- or off.
By being connected to the national scene in Chalon-sur-Saône, do you develop in contact with a rural area?
In Paris, we do not know the people we play for. In a provincial town, the public is people you meet on the street or at the pharmacy, there is a loyalty that is created. It is interesting to realize that our country also consists of this audience.
Does the reception of this show give you hope?
It gives me courage, grumpy. We have such good reactions from the kids, we see things that twinkle in their eyes during the show. I’m proud of Breathtaking, very proud. And then the kids mostly discover the theater. If I manage to get them to like it and send them more messages, it’s great. Theater is anything but boring!
“Fantastic” From 7 to 23 July 2022
13, rue Pont Trouca, Avignon
04 32 74 18 54
“As You Will”, after Shakespeare
Resumption in September at the Théâtre de la Pépinière