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 several actors… But how do you adapt a 500-page novel into a one-and-a-half-hour show? Here are some pieces that have taken up this challenge.
L’occupation from the company Le Chapeau rouge, after 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 got back together with a 47-year-old teacher. “My suffering basically was not having killed him”, blows Romane Bohringer in the skin of her character, about this new lover who has taken her place. In her black tunic, her hair tied in a bun, the actress embodies this woman devoured by the desire to know everything about her rival, her first name, her profession, the way she dresses…
For a little over an hour, Romane Bohringer occupies the stage alone and goes through all the moods: despair when she hears I Will Survive on the radio of the store where she does her shopping, the seduction when she finds her ex-boyfriend in a café, the excitement when she thinks back to their crazy nights of love… With enormous ease, the artist transcribes the words spicy, sometimes very raw, of Annie Ernaux, but above all the intelligence and the strength of her reflections and the analysis of her feelings.
At the initiative of this project, the director Pierre Pradinas. He had already worked with Romane Bohringer in The bald singer by Eugène Ionesco, which won her the Molière for best actress in 2017. “I wouldn’t have set up this project if I didn’t have the perfect actress to direct it”he 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 – waited impatiently for the start of the show. On stage, the actress is accompanied by a multi-talented musician, Christophe “Disco” Minck: he plays the harp, the piano, the guitar. He uses the turntables at the edge of the stage to mix or play percussion. The end of the piece, rhythmic and hilarious, is followed by a long moment of applause. “I didn’t expect to love it so much!”says Yvonne, a spectator who is starting her Avignon marathon. “I was afraid it would be a bit long… But it was delicious and so funny!”.
L’occupation by Pierre Pradinas, at the Théâtre des Halles. Until July 30, at 2 p.m. No class on July 13, 20 and 27.
The art of losing from Watermark 111, after Alice Zeniter
Winner of the Goncourt prize for high school students in 2017, The art of losing tells the story of a family, between France and Algeria, through successive generations. The novel is divided into three parts: the first takes place in Algeria in the 1950s, while the war of independence is raging. The second, in France, in the 1970s and the arrival of many refugees, placed in camps and then in the city suburbs. The last takes place alongside Naïma, born in France and yet constantly referred to her Algerian origins, of which she does not even know the story.
This novel of more than 400 pages has been adapted into a 1h20 show by a team of enthusiasts: 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”, wrote in a letter Alice Zeniter, about Céline Dupuis, who powerfully holds the unique role of this show. This team wanted to adapt this novel for a long time without succeeding. “At first, I couldn’t find a satisfactory 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 show and the encounters. In the first role, Céline Dupuis plays the radiophonic storyteller. She reads the text sitting at her desk or plays it. Behind, images parade and interact with the actress: sometimes testimonies from Franck Renaud’s documentary, sometimes actors who play the role of Hamid, Naïma or Ali in the form of fictitious interviews. Added to this set are quotes, newspaper clippings, Algerian archive videos… The piece is dense, rich. The scenography is uncluttered with just a few wooden slabs that serve as a screen to leave plenty of room for the text.
The art of losing 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 bit 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 have a little time left before the next show so I’m going to take the opportunity to go 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 30, at 4:20 p.m. No class on July 11, 18 and 25.
Their children after them from the company Tomorrow from Dawn, after Nicolas Mathieu
The young director Hugo Roux, who signs the adaptation of Their children after them, chose to go back and forth between conversations rooted in daily life and addresses to the public. The characters are both in the present moment and, each in turn, external witnesses of their own story. The transition from the present to the simple past takes place with fluidity and gives flesh to the powerful text of the 2018 winner of the Goncourt Prize.
In the suffocating heat of the Lorraine summers, young people suffocate, zone out, deal and kill time as best they can. Anthony, Hacine, Stéph and Clém, all dream of “get the hell out” without really knowing the way or the destination. Between anger, boredom and desire, the seven actors of the company Demain d’aube powerfully embody these teenagers and their parents without horizon, moving from one character to another with skill.
“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 desires of individuals.” At 26, this graduate of the ENSATT is already on his tenth creation and, like all the members of the Demain d’aube company, shows remarkable maturity. The scenography by Juliette Desproges testifies with simplicity to these determinisms.
We enter the room as we turn the pages of the book, caught up in the language and the thickness of the characters, inhabited by complex feelings of having a world to conquer without knowing the tools to achieve it. We come out with strong images: the sensual and brutal body to body of Anthony and Steph, the sun on Hélène’s skin at the municipal swimming pool, the slow descent into hell of Anthony’s father, eaten away by alcohol . The author Nicolas Mathieu, who supports the project, assured that we would find him in the Avignon hall to applaud this young company.
Their children after them by the company Tomorrow from Dawn, at theater 11. Until July 29, at 10:15 p.m. No class on July 12, 19 and 26.