Epic on stage


Here I clarify what Altair will bring to the table in relation to film and in relation to classical live performance.
For several months I have been talking about this as if it were obvious – even though nothing I have in mind exists at the moment.

The Epic is one of those areas where Altair has something decidedly new to contribute. How ?

I’ll beat around the bush, if I may.

Yesterday I saw Top Gun Maverick and I was blown away. I expected to be amazed and I was even more amazed than I expected.
Everything that – I think – cinema can give in the way of epic is concentrated in this movie – you have to go see it!
In the field of theatre, play, in view of the reality of a scene, there are no mind-blowing images – theatre tells and the viewer imagines mind-blowing and terrifying realities.
What the cinema shows, the theatre tells – until then, we are in 2022.

This great law of cinema – show rather than tell – is fabulous for the epic, it’s true.

So – why madam? – to look elsewhere?

Because we can do even better, of course!

The last time, I was telling about my passionate reading of Napoleon’s Soldier of the Imperial Guard.
In the realm of the epic, it will be difficult to find more powerful than what the Grande Armée has achieved.
I won’t even ask if you agree.
I know you do.

Adapting this to film?
No way.
Mind you – it’s possible and it sucks – it’s wasting the material, it’s dishonoring the story – so that’s a no.
Why is it impossible?
I see two major reasons.
The first is that it’s a thousand times too long – so we’ll choose a tiny episode in this epic.
The second reason is that Grande Armée-style extras are far too kitschy – so viewers won’t really get into the story. They will be amused by the hats – amazed by the frock coats – and by the time they get over it, the movie will be over.

So it would be – it has been – a movie where you’ll have a bunch of people dressed in period clothing telling you about Austerlitz if they’re French, Waterloo if they’re English – the Italian Campaign if the French and English agree – the Egyptian Campaign if the EU gives money – and everyone will be disappointed because there will be so much “missing”.
If you are going to choose an unknown episode of history, everyone will be even more disappointed.
And no one will really get into the movie – because the characters are all absolutely too far away from us.

To get closer to them, it is possible to get attached to a character – like Captain Coignet for example.
It is better for the spectator, who can begin his work of identification.
But it will be necessary to twist the reality to invent love affairs and wounds that he never talks about – he has the point of view of the Soldier and that’s all.
But it’s better.

On the other hand, on the screen… if you stay with him, it won’t be easy to understand what’s going on.
We can take the side of multiplying the points of view of the soldiers – but we take the risk of taking away any attachment of the spectator.

All this is feasible – but : marked by kitsch.

For a theatre stage … the matter is simplified because nothing can be shown at all.

It already costs significantly less money.
On the other hand… it might be a bit long too, to listen to a guy reading the Captain’s memoirs, right?

As for me, since I’ve been able to read for quite a long time, I like to read by myself on my sofa.
So I don’t ask myself the question, we’d have to find a new Shakespeare, a new Homer – and well – this is getting inconsistent – I’m not going to conjure up any geniuses, I don’t know how to do that.

So – what do you think?

I know, I know – you expect me to talk.
You know, I think, my answer.

I go back to my obsessions – and my observations about the current audience – the younger one.
If we assume that these young people are used to playing – yes yes – games where they are wacky, zany, kitschy characters – and who fight wars in not at all realistic “21st century” environments – I see an opening to my problem.

If we assume that these young people are also used to playing the same game – with different maps – for several months, my opening is clearly enlarged.

I do not suggest that they look at Captain Coignet, the first hero of the Grande Armée.
I want them to fight with him – or against him.

Once they have fought, too, with their horses, their huge improbable hats, once they have been stranded in the swamps of Poland, once this has been achieved – they will be able to see the end – in the theatre – invented by “them” this end, therefore not realistic.

To tell the heroic and epic story of the Grande Armée, you have to accept to change the rules.

So, I had to invent this famous thing that is now so dear to my heart: an e.sport show-tournament.

During the whole season, during the qualifications for the final to the day of the show, all the highlights of this so long – too long, definitely too long -story will have been played.
We will have the images of these engagements.
They will have carried it, our gamers/viewers, their dismantled cannon, through the goat paths of the Alps. They will have jumped from stake to stake to get out of the swamp.
They will have lost their lives/energy by not eating. Walking, loaded like mules. Obviously, they will have “made & won” their battles.

As a result – on the day of the show – we will have a splendid amount of images to reuse – sparingly.
On the stage there will be the actors who will represent the players who have managed to get there. The qualifiers.

On stage, there will be a short episode played – chosen of course above all.
If it was up to me, of course I would choose the sun of Austerlitz.
Well – I’ll take a back seat. I know, I know, the ending is pppfffff.

So, this episode chosen – it will be a matter of articulating the players’ input in the finale and the scene.
If we take Waterloo, there’s the linchpin of everything – the one that brought down Bonaparte: the captain who didn’t warn Marshal Grouchy to move.
Then this corps came out of Waterloo intact, nobody asked Grouchy anything, they didn’t move.

Captain Coignet was one of Bonaparte’s liaison officers, the ones who left at full speed to transmit orders to the various army corps.
These men were the linchpins of victory or defeat – no internet in those days, no telephone – no no – they were guys.

This is what the finalists could play – protect or slaughter these “linchpins” men of the battle.
On the stage the General Staff explaining what’s going on – and what the stakes are – and what the results are – and what disasters or victories are coming depending on what the players are doing.

The presence of this staff on stage is justified – without them nobody understands what is going on –
Is also justified to give orders to the players … now guys, go there, it’s urgent!

And now I bet you whatever you want that everyone is taken: the players – the actors – the spectators – the technical team – me too of course: all this because it is done in real – live – so without certainty.
Winning or losing this battle depends on the players – nobody knows the end when they enter the theatre.
If this is not epic, then frankly… pssst psssst…. go join the French Legion Etrangère.

You don’t get that in the movies.
You can’t have that fear – because the end is not known.
I dream of it.

Now it’s possible to do this – I know it’s a crazy job, lalalala, I know this song – but what? the Pyramids was also a crazy job – much crazier.

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Morality : gna gna gna…the same things… all the time… work work work …again, again, more… lalalalala… better, gna gna gna, try ag’ ag’ again! lalala… in the end is the best – pfffuuu

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