Le Massacre a Paris (the Massacre at Paris)

By de Carles, Natalie Rivere | Shakespeare Bulletin, Winter 2007 | Go to article overview

Le Massacre a Paris (the Massacre at Paris)


de Carles, Natalie Rivere, Shakespeare Bulletin


Le Massacre a Paris (The Massacre at Paris) Presented by Compagnie X ici at Theatre National de Toulouse, March 1-10 2007, and at the Theatre National de Strasbourg, January 11-18, 2008. Adapted for the stage by Guillaume Delaveau. Translation by Pascal Collin. Set by Claude Gaillard. Lighting by Cyrille Siffer. Sound and Video by Aline Loustalot. Scenography and costumes by Aurelie Thomas. Props by Valerie Fontaine. Make up and prosthetics by Francois Chaumayrac. With Quentin Baillot (Duke of Guise), Christine Brotons (Queen Mother Catherine of Medicis), Alban Guyon (Navarre, Seroune's wife, a minion), Gerard Hardy (Coligny, Du Plessis, Taleus, a Huguenot, a Murderer, a Messenger, a Surgeon), Regis Laroche (Anjou, Henry III), and Ismael Ruggiero (Christopher Marlowe).

During a post-show talk, the play's director, Guillaume Delaveau, defined the starting point of his production as follows: "Marlowe was unfaithful to History and so was I. I looked at this play from the perspective of my own time and space. This production is a collage where the performing frame is the Elizabethan era." He insisted on the incomplete nature of the Marlovian script and took the decision to fill the textual blanks with different temporal landmarks. The result was a breathless, visually violent production that played with the audience's historical and theatrical frames of reference.

From the very first moments of the performance, the spectators were trapped in the temporal net designed by the scenographer and the director. The wide proscenium arch stage of the Theatre de Toulouse was scattered with a puzzling combination of props: stage left, a skeleton was cycling on a bike actuating a grindstone. A breastplate and a sword could be seen on the floor near that ominous machine. Stage right, one could see a piano on a gyrating platform. The contrast between both devices set the tone of the production. Delaveau's Massacre at Paris was to be a fascinating dance of death for all times. The upright piano and the bike were contemporary symbols of joy and movement, while the other props were the links to the early modern era. This initial temporal instability was reinforced by a translucent screen, behind which could be seen, classic furniture symbolizing the French court; and, above all, the plasma screen suspended from the heavens on the left hand-side. The play began when the skeleton started cycling and the TV played a video where the actors could be seen disembarking from the Eurostar at Paris Gare du Nord in modern clothing. A close-up of one the actor playing Christopher Marlowe signaled the actual entrance of the bacldit troupe behind the translucent screen. The superimposition of eras was also symbolized by a newly added Prologue to the play spoken by Christopher Marlowe, flamboyantly dressed in red. The latter entered the stage just after the rest of the troupe's ghostly appearance behind the screen; he sat at the piano and started playing the melody of David Bowie's "Space Oddity."

Delaveau clearly wanted to draw an historical parallel between yesterday and today's religious feuds, and he decided to use the shady persona of a murdered playwright as the link between the audience and the play. This reinvented character was going to be the spectators' guide throughout the performance. Coming back regularly on stage to fill in the blanks of an unfinished text, Marlowe's persona illustrated the melancholic glitter of the slow decay of a French court torn apart by religious dissensions and political opportunism. However, he was a perplexing Ariadne's thread leading the audience through the play. His interludes addressed the spectators through a combination of poetry, music and songs: the voice of Marlowe became a composite polyphonic instrument featuring Pier Paolo Pasolini's poems, French 1930s love songs, ("J'ai deux Amours" and "Adieu, Paris") and David Bowie's songs (the beginning of "Space Oddity" and the ironic sample from "Heroes": "We could be heroes /just for one day").

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