Home > 1960, 1990, 2010, Duras Marguerite, Hall Lee, Personal Posts, Theatre > Three theatres, three plays

Three theatres, three plays

As regular readers know, I love going to the theatre and I have a subscription at my local theatre. I choose the plays early in June for the next season. Needless to say, unless the play is a classic or based upon a novel I know, I never remember what I’m going to see when I go to a play I scheduled so many months before. Keep this in mind.

My local theatre, Le Théâtre des Célestins, has two stages, a big one à l’italienne and a small one called Célestine. Usually the big one is for classics and plays with a large audience and the small one is for contemporary plays. The big stage is this gorgeous historical stage.

Théâtre des Célestins. (from grainsdesel.com)

The small stage is such an intimate setting that you can almost see pimples on the actors’ faces. Keep this in mind too.

A few weeks ago, I went to see Cooking With Elvis by Lee Hall with my sister and my sixteen-years old daughter. It’s an English play with the atmosphere of the film The Full Monty, with this very British mix of social misery and comedy. In Cooking With Elvis, we’re in a broken family of three. The father who used to be an Elvis impersonator had a car accident and is now paralyzed. His (unnamed) wife and daughter Jill are left to deal with the aftermath. His wife tries to cope and to live again by being frivolous. She goes out, drinks and has one-night stands. His daughter Jill cooks all the time, trying to bring her father back by cooking his favorite meals. With such a different approach of how life should be going on, it’s not a surprise that mother and daughter fight all the time. Comes Stuart, a young guy who started as one of Mother’s fling but stuck with her and quickly moved in with the family. He was still living with his parents, his age is between daughter and mother, he’s barely more mature than teenage Jill. It is a rather sad setting with an impossible situation for the two women: the man of the family is a vegetable and there is no hope of recovery. The mother looks for affection and sex to escape her reality and as she points out, she’s only 39, her life isn’t over. Plus, her marriage wasn’t that wonderful and she’s not really missing out. Jill will have to accept that the father and Elvis impersonator she loved so much isn’t quite there any longer.

It’s sad, of course but it’s also funny. The director chose to have the father raise from his seat and sing Elvis Presley songs in all his impersonator glory. It diffused the tension and also helped seeing what Jill misses and how irritating it could have been to be married to such a man. It’s a play about sex, food and rock-and-roll.

Now, remember what I told you before about not remembering the play’s blurb, about the pimple-seeing sized stage and The Full Monty reference? Imagine you’re sitting by your daughter and this Stuart character keeps shedding his clothes on stage? Not just prancing in his boxer briefs, that would be too easy, no, showing his full package was apparently necessary. If there was any mystery left for her about male anatomy, there’s none now. I was so embarrassed I think I missed out on the fun. True, it shows well how poor Jill must have felt in real life with her mother’s lovers strutting in the apartment. But was it really necessary? So many times? And the blowjob show? Kuddos for the actor and his courage to play this character because the audience was very close. I’m so glad I wasn’t in the front rows.

I don’t think I’m a prude but I also don’t think that all this nakedness was necessary to serve Lee Hall’s play. Has anyone of you seen this play? Did the director make the same choices about the Stuart character? The topic of a family shattered by an accident was alsi the main theme of Rabbit Hole by David Lindsay-Abaire. Same pitch totally different approach.

 

The next play I saw was in the great Italian room and it was totally different. It’s called Petit Eloge de la nuit. The publisher Folio has this collection of “Little tribute to…” and Ingrid Astier wrote about “the night”. Little Tribute to the Night is made of vignettes about the night in all its forms. It was made into a play by Gérald Garutti who chose Pierre Richard to be the narrator/actor. He’s on stage, sharing Astier’s visions of the night. Dressed in white and tanned, he looks like a explorator ready to take us to a journey into the night. It has literary references but not only. It explores what the night can be: magical, disquieting, fun and full of partying, the kingdom of dreams and nightmares, the host of our anxiety, a moment to stare at the starts, a moment to rest and think.

I wanted to see Pierre Richard on stage, he’s a marvelous actor who’s over 80. He still has a spring in his steps that I hope I’ll have if I reach that age. The direction was good, poetic at times. I thought there were too many videos and pictures on the large screen on the scene. Including videos and picture slide shows seems to be fashionable in theatre these days. Sometimes it fits well with the play and sometimes it just seems lazy. Here, I’m not sure it was always welcome but maybe it allowed Pierre Richard to rest. After all, he’s 83 and he was alone on stage. It was a lovely evening and if you’re in France, it’s worth going to see this play.

 

Last play I saw was The Rivers and the Forests by Marguerite Duras, directed by Michel Didym. It was in another theatre Les Ateliers, a small stage where the play was transferred because the Célestine was damaged by the recent floods.

Duras created three characters who meet on a street in the 16th arrondissement in Paris, a very posh neighborhood. They were on a crosswalk when a woman’s dog bit the calf of a man and another woman witnessed it. The characters aren’t named, they’re strangers that are thrown together because Zigou the dog wanted a taste of the man’s calf. They start talking and the dog’s owner would like to take the man to the Institut Pasteur were he can be tested for rabies. As the dialogue unfolds we understand that the dog’s owner killed her husband, that it’s not the first time that the dog bites a passerby and that she’s so lonely that she enjoys spending time at the Institut Pasteur where the concierge comes from the same provincial town as her. The other woman is stuck in a loveless and maybe abusive marriage and the man is also lonely.

Duras manages to show loneliness in big cities in her quirky and dry language. She also portrays two female characters who weren’t good marriage material in their parents’ eyes and who were pushed into marrying the first man who paid them a bit of attention. The fact that one was much older that their daughter or that the other was violent didn’t deter them from the match. It’s all hidden in little sentences thrown here and there, among acid jokes and apparent absurdity. But when you think back about what you’ve seen, it’s there, this statement about women’s condition in the early 1960s. (The play was written in 1964) The actors were excellent. Charlie Nielson looked like he has been picked from a 1950s movie. Brigitte Catillon and Catherine Matisse were perfect impersonations of 16th arrondissement bourgeoises. The set was nicely put, an exact replica of a Parisian street. My daughter was with me this time too: no naked men to report, only a cute dog.

Next play is Georges Dandin by Molière. A safe bet. (I hope. But you never know. I once saw a Hamlet version where the actor ended up naked too)

  1. March 3, 2018 at 10:31 am

    How embarrassing having to watch that with your daughter! I’ve been spared that so far with my son but there have been some tricky film moments.

    Like

    • March 4, 2018 at 9:58 am

      I was very embarrassed. I probably shouldn’t be but I was. I’m glad to hear you would have been ill-at-ease as well, that’s not just me then.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. March 3, 2018 at 4:00 pm

    I need to attend more love theatre. It is a fulfilling experience.

    I would have felt the same way about the nudity in Cooling with Elvis. At the very least it sounds very distracting.,

    Like

    • March 4, 2018 at 10:01 am

      I really love going to the theatre and see actors on stage. I’m always in awe in how flawless it is, how seamless it appears to be. There’s obviously a lot of work behind what we see.

      The repeated nudity was distracting, yes.

      Like

  3. March 3, 2018 at 5:23 pm

    I and my husband go through Lyon quite often on our way from Switzerland down to the Ardèche and we occasionally stop over for a night so we can go to the opera. But we didn’t know the Théâtre des Célestins. Ce sera pour la prochaine fois! Thanks for drawing our attention to it.

    Like

    • March 4, 2018 at 10:02 am

      Hello,

      Welcome to Book Around the Corner.
      I hope you’ll have the chance to go to the Célestins, it’s a beautiful theatre and usually the plays are of good quality.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. D Octavia Willis
    March 4, 2018 at 3:56 am

    Your comments make me nostalgic for plays. I saw many when I lived in Atlanta, Now I live near Seattle where there are several theaters. However, being 82 I just can’t get to them. Please write more about your experiences. They are better than reviews!

    Like

    • March 4, 2018 at 10:04 am

      Hello,

      Welcome to Book Around the Corner and thank you for your kind comment. I always hesitate to write these posts because, well, how could someone else could be interested in what I do in my free time? So thank you for saying you liked this one.

      If you want to read more posts like this, have a look at the Theatre category, it’s mostly about plays I’ve seen and you might enjoy the posts filed under Literary Escapades.

      Emma

      Like

  5. March 5, 2018 at 9:30 pm

    I’m not a prude either, but I’ve walked out of plays with gratuitous nudity and bizarre things going on w/crucifixes. It’s made worse by the fact that a wonderful play was completely ruined by someone’s “artistic” interpretation.

    Like

    • March 7, 2018 at 9:51 pm

      It’s distracting at best and here, given the company, it was embarrassing.

      Liked by 1 person

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