At the Avignon Festival, a monster piece connects day and night

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published on Monday, July 11, 2022 at 10:27 p.m.

“What abnegation!” Launches the actress to the public. Or “they’re masochists,” jokes another actor. At the Festival d’Avignon, a theatrical epic takes up the challenge of keeping spectators seated for 13 hours… with a few intermissions all the same.

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

At La Fabrica, one of the stages of the festival just outside the “City of the Popes”, the public, who remained generally until the end, got up around midnight to loudly applaud the 17 actors and actresses of the “Nid of ashes” , by French playwright Simon Falguières, 33.

After each of the four intermissions and two breaks, two actors go into raptures (“They haven’t left!”) and amuse themselves by encouraging or teasing the audience.

In this epic divided into seven parts and which opposes a real world to that of the tales, we find a couple who abandon their baby near the trailer of a traveling theater troupe then, on the other hand, a sick queen — a kind of allegory of the West– as well as a king and a princess who want to cure it.

The two worlds, separated by a different and effective scenography, come together at the end of 13 hours, after a series of adventures where the fable mixes with the news by various winks.

Despite scenes that might seem disjointed, some spectators interviewed by AFP at the end of this marathon seemed transported by the experience.

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

– “We get carried away” –

“We are happy to have held on, we let ourselves be 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 for it to be done 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, a director from Strasbourg, did not like the remarks at all, but nuance: “Take this time, to stop our watches, it’s a nice gesture”.

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

Passionate about theater since his 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 works such as “Le Soulier de Satin” by Paul Claudel (11 am), the historical tragedies of Shakespeare, or “Peer Gynt”, the famous play in five acts by Ibsen.

“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 it brought this dream of make a world-piece”, he confides.

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

Is this compatible with our societies today? “The 1 p.m. can scare people very much. Me, I live in the Normandy countryside and, when I tell locals that I’m doing a 1 p.m. piece, they look at me and say: + It’s your stories it’s up to you +”, he smiles.

But, in an ultra-connected society, “it’s a desire to tell people: + Come, we’re going to try to live a poetic journey together”.

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