published Monday 11 July 2022 at 10:27 pm

“What self-denial!”, Throws the actress to the audience. Or “they’re masochists,” jokes another actor. At the Festival d’Avignon, a theatrical epic takes up the challenge of keeping the audience seated for 13 hours … with some breaks all the same.

This is not the first time. In 2018 Julien Gosselin made a ten-hour adaptation of three novels by the American Don DeLillo and, in the same year, the outgoing director of the festival, Olivier Py, staged his monumental opera “Ma Jeunesse exaltée” (also 10 hours).

At La Fabrica, one of the stops of the festival just outside the “City of the Popes”, the public, generally remained until the end, got up around midnight to cheer at the top of their lungs the 17 actors and actresses of the playwright’s “Nid of Ash” Simon Falguières, 33.

After each of the four intervals and the two pauses, two actors go into raptures (“They’re not gone!”) And have fun by encouraging or teasing the audience.

In this epic divided into seven parts and which contrasts a real world with that of tales, we find a couple who abandon their child near the trailer of a traveling theater company then, instead, a sick queen, a kind of allegory of the West, as well as a king and a princess who want to heal him.

The two worlds, separated by a different and effective scenography, meet at the end of 13 hours, after a series of adventures in which the tale is mixed with the news by various winks.

Despite scenes that may seem disconnected, some spectators interviewed by the AFP at the end of this marathon seemed carried away by the experience.

“This format deserves to exist, it’s a nice oddity. I have very little looked at my phone, the news, the messages. We’re a little out of time,” says Jude Butel-Gans, 23, a social science student from Lyon.

– “We get carried away” –

“We are happy to have stood firm, we got carried away”, laughs Marie Roux, 45, trained in this experience by her daughter Manon, 17, a student at the Paris Conservatory. “But I think it’s complicated to do it elsewhere than in Avignon.”

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

Julie, director of Strasbourg, did not like the remarks at all, but the nuances: “Take this time, to stop our watches, it’s a nice gesture”.

The playwright and director had long had the idea of ​​a river show in mind.

Passionate about theater since adolescence – he wrote his first play at the age of 13 and went to the Avignon Festival from a very young age -, Simon Falguières was nurtured by plays such as “Le Soulier de Satin” by Paul Claudel (11 am), the historical tragedies of Shakespeare, or “Peer Gynt”, Ibsen’s famous comedy in five acts.

“I have experienced several river crossings, especially at the Avignon Festival, but the first memory of an epic is + The Last Caravanserai + by Ariane Mnouchkine. It was a great shock and brought this dream of making a piece of the world”, he confides .

He likes to reconnect with the very origins of the theater, and in particular “the first ancestral representations, among the Greeks, the Japanese Nô or Balinese theater: it lasted whole nights to tell infinite things”.

Is this compatible with our societies today? “1pm can be very frightening to people. I live in the Normandy countryside and when I tell the locals that I am doing a 1pm piece, they look at me and say: + It’s your stories, it’s yours + “, He smiles.

But, in an ultra-connected society, “there is a desire to say to people: + Come, we will try to experience a poetic journey together”.

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