With “La Saga de Molière”, the company Les Estivants tells the story of Jean-Baptiste Poquelin, the most famous French playwright born 400 years ago. Reviving the spirit of trestle theatre, the actresses take the play to the social centers of Nîmes, then to Rodilhan, Redessan, Saint-Gilles and Clarensac. Meeting with director Johana Giacardi.
For a 30-year-old director, what does Molière represent?
As a child, I always loved Molière. When I told my mom I was going to do a show on him, she told me I was going back to my first loves. In 2019, I put on my first show which was kind of a failure. I decided to go on the road, in the summer, to play in campsites.
And at the same time, I discovered “Le roman de Monsieur de Molière”, by Mikhaïl Boulgakov, which recounts his life and especially this significant episode: following numerous failures in Paris, he too decides to leave the capital and go and play in the provinces with his trestles. I thought maybe I’m the reincarnation of Jean-Baptiste Poquelin! We have the same trajectory, I will end up in court too!
And you’ve created a little shape that can be played around…
The idea was to be independent. If ever our show is not bought by theaters, we have the freedom to be able to play it everywhere, outdoors, in party halls, social centers… We are in a very frontal system, with the spectators around from U.S. There are very few light changes, a lot of skill. The story is told in the eyes of the people, we remake a little raw, essential and poor theater. We return to the origins of theatre: telling stories, with the machinery in sight, without hiding anything.
The show tells the life of Molière. Did you also draw on his work?
We mix, especially for the second part of his life, when he arrives at court, I relied more on the works. But the desire was to tell the life of this man and the troupe.
At the end, to evoke all that is said about Armande Béjart, who was a woman younger than him whom he married after Madeleine Béjart, I needed the works, so as not to talk nonsense. Finally, the biographers do not really know where to go. In the works, there are a few themes. We understand that he is often a cuckold, since the figure often comes back.
What have you learned from his whole life to characterize Molière on stage?
What interested me was talking about the rise, how he went from a young boy whose father wanted him to become an upholsterer to meeting Madeleine Béjart, who introduced him to theater and love. He fell in love with the theater and all his life he stubbornly fought so that this life choice could take him somewhere. I was interested in the passage between the years of wandering in the provinces and the arrival at court. I wanted to put the spotlight back on the invisible Molière about whom we speak very little. I believe that the power and the richness of his work took shape at that moment. It is born later when he is supported, when he has the means to create his shows, but before that, he has a whole genesis, his first emotions, his first questions, his first relationships with the world, a look that sharpens …
What legacy of Molière for today’s artists?
This remains a fairly classic legacy. I’m not completely into the tribute, I feel like I recognize him as a master. But I think we also have to beat the masters up in order to move forward!
What does this saga say about our time?
Throughout the creation, it was fun to realize that by drawing a parallel between the trajectories of a 17th century man and a 21st century company, the links were quite obvious. The social circle of the time, the precious ridiculous, who would it be today? Quite naturally, I had fun thinking of the rather offensive characters from the show “Le Masque et la Plume” and we integrated them into the show. Institutions don’t change that much…
Molière was at the same time author, actor, director. Like you…
All the more reason to identify! For the moment, I can’t imagine the staging without being on set. I need to experience the stage to have ideas, to direct my actresses. Sharing the same joys, the same sorrows, that changes a lot of things. In all the experiences I’ve had with other directors, I haven’t had the same joy in working.
There was also this collective work with Molière…
Completely. Madeleine Béjart was very important in the emergence of ideas…
There are only girls in the troupe…
We are five girls. When I started setting up the company, it was by chance. And finally, as I move forward, I tell myself that it’s a chance, a way of finding more freedom at work. Often people arrive and say: there is no boy, how are you going to play Molière? On the contrary, we will be able to exchange roles. If there had only been one boy, we would have stopped thinking and we would have said: you’re the boy, you’re the one playing Jean-Baptiste Poquelin. While there, everything is reversed. Theater is acting.
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[VIDEO] Tour of “La Saga de Molière” around Nîmes: “We return to the origins of the theater, without hiding anything”
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