Programming / French Week – Day 5.
In the category: article that should not be written, this one will be among the first.
But how to evoke France while forgetting the boiling blood that only needs an opportunity to burst into anger?
Above all, we love the revolutionary image. Freedom guiding the People still makes all our hearts beat. So much so that it found itself tagged on our walls, guiding the yellow vests.
Gavroche the young hero of Les Misérables, shot on the barricades revolts every French soul. For him, we still sing: Je suis tombé par terre, c’est la faute à Voltaire; Le nez dans le ruisseau, c’est la faute à Rousseau/I fell to the ground, it’s Voltaire’s fault, the nose in the creek, it’s Rousseau’s fault /- piously guarded words from the song of those little boys who died for us.
The Marseillaise is a national treasure, and I could give you a 300-pages list of all those facts, real or literary, that educate our minds to the Great Politics.
It is surely for all this that I absolutely refuse the idea of politics in a theatre – we are full of politics, we only talk about it, we still gut ourselves for it – we cordially hate each other, we avoid each other for political ideas. If there is one subject that divides us totally, it is this one.
And, as if our traditional divisions weren’t enough, we’ve added all the Anglo-Saxon divisions (thank you guys), and there you have those who fight for animals, for gender, against violence here, violence there, hatred here and hatred there, all with masterful doses of hatred and violence.
How can I get out of it, me who absolutely hate any political stance on a stage?
(I have excuses – it’s the DNA of French stages, it’s unbearable.)
I’m going to cheat. No choice.
In other words, I’m going to start again from the Certain, from the Universal (yes, I’m a true Frenchwoman) – in short, from everything that will avoid being one party against another, in order to move on to Level 2: how about thinking about the City? What about political power?
That would make it much easier.
The first author I take then is Pierre Corneille. And since I’m not afraid to take failures – I program Cinna. instead of Le Cid – I know, I would have better chances with Le Cid and the beautiful Chimène, and the despicable old man who arms his son’s arm – never mind.
Cinna is a masterful tragedy – I love it – and it’s a tragedy which has the incredible advantage of forcing the Prince to reflect on his role: the whole play reminds those in power that to show clemency is not to show weakness but greatness.
To sum up the story in one word: Augustus – whom I will not insult you for introducing – killed Toranius, whose daughter was little Emilie. Augustus adopts the child and begins to adore her as his own daughter.
When she grows up, the little one asks her lover, Cinna, for the head of Augustus.
And at the same time, Augustus asks Cinna for advice: should he remain in power? – and gives him his beloved adopted daughter in marriage.
I pass the details to you. Cinna does not know what to do: he adores Emilie and he loves Augustus. We are in the middle of the very famous tragic knot.
For the purposes of the play – and historical consistency – the plot against Augustus fails. What will be the reaction of this Prince, the princeps, the first, in front of the hatred of his close relations, of those whom he loves and in whom he had an absolute confidence?
And there come, in a lived way, all the reflections on power – that is to say, one does not think about power, one lives it directly, with one’s rationality and feelings.
And since it is Corneille who writes, the spectator doesn’t know at all who to take sides with.
If you’re wondering whether I’m not trolling you, with my beautiful French tragedy, in alexandrines and rhymes – you may be right. It may be a bit difficult to adapt.
But if anyone could do it, it would be a great show. All of Corneille’s plays are huge, because you’re really in the terrible difficulties you encounter as an adult, in the contradictions and the choices you have to make, without knowing what to choose.
Okay, it’s never played anywhere.
Then there’s this one.
This one fits very easily.
It’s a totally amazing show – I’ve seen it. I couldn’t believe it at all – I thought the puppets were too small, I thought you wouldn’t understand anything.
And the two girls bluffed me. It was great – their work on the lights and the sound system makes absolutely everything go through and in a few minutes you don’t realize how small the objects are.
And with that, we “saw” Les Misérables – without having read a single line by Victor Hugo.
I couldn’t help but talk a little bit about politics when talking about France.
It’s okay, you forgive me for this discrepancy? (a new word – I love it)
Tomorrow I will resume in our lightness.
Featured Image : La Liberté guidant le Peuple – Eugène Delacroix.