Nicolas Mathieu, Annie Ernaux, Alice Zeniter, Karine Tuil… This year, at the Avignon Festival, several authors have the privilege of being adapted into plays. Some companies have chosen to perform alone on stage, others have preferred to embody it with a team of different actors… But how does a 500-page novel fit into an hour and a half show? Here are some pieces that have taken up this challenge.

occupation from the company Le Chapeau rouge, by Annie Ernaux

In this hundred-page novel, the author portrays a woman in her forties who is tortured following a breakup. For five years she lived with a young man, whom she left, and who quickly returned with a 47-year-old teacher. “After all, my suffering was not having killed him”, blows Romane Bohringer into her character’s skin, on this new lover who has taken her place. In her black tunic, her hair pulled back into a bun, the actress embodies this woman devoured by the desire to know everything about her rival, her name, her profession, the way she dresses. she …

For just over an hour, Romane Bohringer occupies the stage alone and goes through all its moods: she despairs when she hears I will Survive on the radio of the shop where she does her shopping, the seduction when she finds her ex-boyfriend in a bar, the excitement when she thinks back to their crazy nights of love … With enormous ease, the artist transcribes the words spicy, sometimes very crude, by Annie Ernaux, but above all the intelligence and strength of her reflections and the analysis of her feelings.

Romane Bohringer inside

On the initiative of this project, the director Pierre Pradinas. He had previously worked with Romane Bohringer in The bald singer by Eugène Ionesco, which earned her the Molière as Best Actress in 2017. “I wouldn’t have created this project if I hadn’t had the dream actress direct it”explains, under the spell.

For the first performance, the hall was full. Glued to each other, the spectators – some fans of Annie Ernaux, others of the Bohringer family – eagerly awaited the start of the show. On stage, the actress is accompanied by a multifaceted musician, Christophe “Disco” Minck: he plays the harp, the piano, the guitar. He uses turntables at the edge of the stage to mix or play percussion. The rhythmic and exhilarating end of the piece is followed by a long moment of applause. “I didn’t expect to love him so much! “says Yvonne, a spectator who is about to start her Avignon marathon. “I was afraid it would be a bit long … But it was delicious and so much fun!”

occupation by Pierre Pradinas, at the Théâtre des Halles. Until July 30th, at 2.00pm No lessons on July 13th, 20th and 27th.

The art of losing from filigree 111, by Alice Zeniter

Winner of the Goncourt Award for High School Students in 2017, The art of losing tells the story of a family, between France and Algeria, through the following generations. The novel is divided into three parts: the first takes place in Algeria in the 1950s, while the war of independence rages. The second, in France, in the 70s and the arrival of many refugees, placed in the camps and then in the outskirts of the city. The last takes place alongside Naïma, born in France yet constantly referring to her Algerian origins, of which she does not even know her story.

This 400+ page novel was adapted into a 1 hour and 20 minute show by a team of fans: Cyril Brisse, Franck Renaud and Céline Dupuis. “Read by her, (my texts) were clear, sometimes beautiful and, above all, I had the impression of discovering a kinship between them, my voice revealed by that of Céline”, Alice Zeniter wrote in a letter, about Céline Dupuis, who strongly holds the unique role of this show. This team has wanted to adapt this novel for a long time without success. “At the beginning I couldn’t find a satisfying scenic grammar”explains Cyril Brisse, the director. “The adaptation for the theater was unveiled, discovering the documentary film by Franck Renaud Makach Mouchkill, Our identities“.

The show is plural: it crosses the image, the live and the meetings. In the lead role, Céline Dupuis plays the radio narrator. She reads the text sitting at her desk or reproduces it. Behind, the images parade and interact with the actress: sometimes testimonies of Franck Renaud’s documentary, sometimes actors playing the role of Hamid, Naïma or Ali in the form of fictional interviews. To this set are added quotes, newspaper clippings, Algerian archive videos … The piece is dense, rich. The scenography is uncluttered with just a few wooden plates acting as a screen to leave plenty of room for the text.

The art of losing It is accessible to those who have never read the novel and will also appeal to those who have read it, thanks to all these additional contents. “I came here, a little by chance, because my hotel was not far away. And I learned a lot about the Algerian war and the integration of Algerians when they arrived in France”says Anne, who came with her husband. “We still have some time before the next show, so I take this opportunity to go and buy the book! It made me want to.”

The art of losing of Filigrane 111, at the Théâtre de l’Entrepôt (1st Boulevard Champfleury, in Avignon). Until July 30th, at 4:20 pm No lessons on July 11th, 18th and 25th.

Their children after them by the company Tomorrow from Dawn, by Nicolas Mathieu

The young director Hugo Roux, who signs the adaptation of Their children after them, has chosen to go back and forth between conversations rooted in everyday life and addressing the public. The characters are both in the present moment and, each in turn, external witnesses of their own story. The passage from the present to the simple past takes place smoothly and gives body to the powerful text of the 2018 winner of the Goncourt Prize.

In the stifling heat of the Lorraine summers, young people suffocate, isolate themselves, trade and kill time as best they can. Anthony, Hacine, Stéph and Clém, everyone dreams “out of here” without really knowing the street or destination. Between anger, boredom and desire, the seven actors of the company Demain d’aube forcefully embody these adolescents and their parents without horizon, moving from one character to another with skill.

A sparkling youth, ready to explode.

“What I liked about Nicolas Mathieu’s novel”testifies the young director Hugo Roux, “is that it shows how economic, social and political systems influence the wishes of individuals”. At 26, this ENSATT graduate is already in his tenth creation and, like all members of the Demain d’aube company, shows remarkable maturity. Juliette Desproges’ scenography testifies these determinisms with simplicity.

We enter the room by leafing through the pages of the book, taken by the language and depth of the characters, inhabited by complex sensations of having a world to conquer without knowing the tools to reach it. We come out with strong images: Anthony and Steph’s sensual and brutal hand-to-hand, the sun on Hélène’s skin at the municipal swimming pool, the slow descent into hell of Anthony’s father, devoured by alcohol. The author Nicolas Mathieu, who supports the project, assured us that we would find him in the Avignon room to applaud this young company.

Their children after them by the company Domani dal alba, at the 11th theater. Until 29 July, at 10:15 pm. No lessons on July 12, 19 and 26.

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