Olivier Py cried when he came to greet the actors at the end of the premiere of his play My exalted youth, Friday 8 July. For him it was a particularly moving evening: a farewell to the festival he has directed since 2013, and a salute to his debut in Avignon, where he signed a brilliant coup in 1995, with The servant. Olivier Py was 29 years old, lived without an address, went from place to place without parting with the skull that his father needed during his dental studies. He had a crazy project that he made: to present a play in a loop for seven days in a row to celebrate the maid, this lonely lamp that stays on on set when the theaters are empty.

Practice theater with the unalterable joy of a craftsman in love with his instruments.

The starting point of the story was in two sentences: a young woman, Marthe, asked her four closest friends to leave to convey to the world a word that an angel had whispered to her. For four years Marthe waited for them … Twenty-six, plus the dog Flipotte, were playing this Servant composed of four main parts, set in dramaturgies. The hours passed, the spectators came and went, or fell asleep, but it didn’t matter: when they returned or woke up they found the intact impulse of an author and a troupe evoking the Gospel. , Molière, Shakespeare or Homer, and the insolent desire for a youth that seemed eternal.

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Twenty-seven years later, Olivier Py comes full circle. He returns to the gymnasium of the Lycée Aubanel but, in a certain sense, he is wiser: only ten hours of entertainment (including two breaks), from 2pm to midnight, to My exalted youth. At the age of 56, the festival director retraces his theatrical youth by questioning today’s young people through the figure of Arlecchino. His Harlequin of him is a pizza delivery man. Every day he brings one to a forgotten poet, who immediately throws it away. This concerns the starting point of the tetralogy of My youth exalted. Four plays in which we will see Arlecchino struggling with art, love, politics, religion, betrayal, hell and redemption.

A definitive trust

We do not run the risk of summarizing them: we would lose the reader. It is enough to know that, on his journey, this Harlequin will come across a gallery of characters: a dishonest cardinal and an exhausted sister, a minister of culture and his advisor, one as ambitious and useless as the other, a tragic actress of the return, a cynical businessman who became President of the Republic, and four young men – well, as in The servant – who dream of theater and will end up doing something else. And then there is Alcandre, the forgotten poet, whose love for Harlequin sounds like the apogee and death knell of existence.

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