The old town of Montpellier, rich in many ruins, still bears traces of its medieval history. But it is a leap even further into the past that the Comedians’ Spring Theater Festival is offering, which runs until June 25th. Three contemporary directors revisit classics of antiquity. What else do the tragic figures of Oedipus, Phaedrus, and Prometheus have to say to us? All in all, the directors respond in unison to the poster whose creations illuminate the festival.
Oedipus the Kingbased on the great Greek playwright Sophocles (-495; -406 BC), directed by Frenchman Eric Lacascade, opened on May 25, which is one of the French festivals of the most famous theater.
Seven performances took place under the stars, in the courtyard of the Agora, the former convent of the Ursulines, at the gates of the old town. Dressed in an azure blue cloak, Oedipus, the legendary king of Thebes in ancient Greece – played by Christopher Gregory inhabited by his character – will not be able to escape his terrible fate: the oracle of Delphi predicted his parents that if they had a son, he would kill his father and marry his mother.
The setting, a few blocks of marble laid here and there, places the plot in the past. But the language, which spanned 25 centuries, is surprisingly fluent, understandable at first glance, in this French version concocted by Eric Lacascade by plucking in no less than “25 translations.” Some of the chosen terms will have resonated sharply in the ears of spectators who are gradually finding their way back to the theaters, after two years of health crisis.
Thus, the word “epidemic” arises, as out of a newsletter, when Oedipus is charged, to save Thebes from a terrible plague, to discover and punish the murderer of his predecessor, King Laius, of whom he unaware that this is his real father and that he married his widow, Jocaste, without knowing that she was his own mother.
But Oedipus refuses to believe that he could be a parricide, “he doesn’t listen”, “he flees the omens, the oracles”Eric Lacascade told AFP. “He acts like a providential man, who rules the city in solitude. He is a man who sleeps, until his eyes widen so that another, more inner vision can come then.”.
“The Pieces of Antiquity Work From Deep Roots: They Question Man’s Relationship to Fate”Eric Lacascade, director of the play “Oedipus”
“The pieces of antiquity work from deep roots: they question man about his relationship to destiny, to the community in which he lives, to our customs, to the ground. What do we mean by those who have power and govern us, by this public that needs to find itself in an ancient and ritualistic act? “adds the 63-year-old playwright, best known for his Chekhov productions at the Avignon Festival.
Lack of decor and accessories kept to a bare minimum for Phaedraaccording to Seneca (1st century AD), created a few days later by Georges Lavaudant and played in a small hall of the Domaine d’O, a vast garden on the outskirts of the city where the heart of the festival beats.
No need for fireworks: “At Seneca, we are in the power of words, we see how the verb can carry the fury of the protagonists “explains festival boss Jean Varela.
The questions of Phaedrus, her son Hippolytus, or her husband, King Theseus, may seem a thousand miles away from modern concerns. But when the young man expresses his thirst for freedom and his love of nature, or when Theseus curses himself for giving in a little quickly to the mad rumors and condemns his son, they take us back to the present time.
Prometheus, according to Aeschylus, the oldest of the Greek tragedians (6th-5th century BC), will close the festival’s “ancient course” on Friday and Saturday. This Prometheus “without rock and without chain”whose plot lies in “a dilapidated house, between a questionable fridge and a cluttered sink”is a staging by the Greek Nikos Karathanos.
“There is such power in the confrontation between Prometheus and the Gods that one feels like this house is going to explode, caught in a chaos of space-time “, promises Jean Varela. For its first two performances in France, the play will be performed in modern Greek and subtitled in French.