“Above all, don’t say anything to Jacob, it’s a surprise. A party is getting ready and each spectator is welcomed as the guest of an evening that promises to be memorable. “Tonight anything can happen,” repeats Judith, one of the instigators of the meeting. A joyful electricity panics the air. Suddenly there is talk of a curfew. It takes us back more than a century to an England shaken by the war brewing in Europe, but it could just as well have taken us elsewhere. Writing one’s life is part of a suspended time and place, at the heart of the work of the British novelist Virginia Woolf (1882-1941).
After the success of the Odyssey and Lost Illusions, Pauline Bayle, director of the Public Theater of Montreuil, continues her fascinating work of adapting novels. Around a challenge: sounding in the theater words designed for a silent tete-a-tete between the reader and the book. The director has chosen here as a starting point Les Vagues, a singular novel described by its author as a “play poem” published in 1931 and translated for the first time into French by Marguerite Yourcenar in 1937.
All the finesse of Pauline Bayle consists in freeing herself from the original form of the novel – a tangle of interior monologues – to extract from it the very essence which, nourished by many other writings by Virginia Woolf, constitutes the fruitful material of the show. So here we are in the euphoria of preparations for the reunion. Six friends await the return of the seventh member of the gang: Jacob, the eldest among them, also the most handsome, the most “charismatic”. They haven’t seen him since he left for the front a year ago. They are not yet 25 years old and stand at the edge of their adult life, connected to each other by the memories of their childhood games.
Characters on the path of life
With delicacy, Pauline Bayle sketches the individual trajectories of these characters, which we will find at several periods of their lives. They do not have the same first names as in the novel but each form an easily recognizable figure. The whimsical George is always looking for a story to tell, Céleste is a nature lover, Judith a love lover, David is bound by a rigorous sense of duty and Tristan a brilliant professor of literature. Nora is the discreet one, the one constantly interrupted by the others. To take flight, she will have to leave this friendship which prevents “her tree from growing”. Jenna Thiam, Charlotte van Bervesselès, Viktoria Kozlova, Loïc Renard, Guillaume Compiano and Hélène Chevallier portray with finesse these beings who seek each other on the inexorable slopes of fleeing time.
To the disenchantment of adulthood, they oppose the dazzle of their childhood memories. “Let’s dive? “says George, leading his friends, and the public with, in a poetic resurgence of their childhood adventures. These imaginary adventures lead them to the assault of desert islands, to the conquest of marvelous kingdoms. Breaking the spell, Tristan suddenly remembers a surprise conversation, in spite of himself, between Jacob and a lady. This described the appearance of a poor wretch found with his throat slit in a ditch, “livid as a dead cod”, forcing the image of death into the boy’s carelessness.
Years pass, “Immense crowds have descended underground,” says George. She got married: “I took my place in the puzzle,” she sighs. Despite a rhythm that dilutes a little towards the end – we bet that it will find its dynamics over the performances – the piece radiates a sensitive beauty. Pauline Bayle’s text is a delight: her musicality runs like the water of the streams. A formidable piece of self-construction, Writing Your Life pays homage to the deep pen of Virginia Woolf and constitutes a magnificent declaration of love for literature, for its infinite power contained in this sentence by Tristan: “Our words weave a world. »
The English language in the spotlight of the festival
Performed in French, with English surtitles, Writing Your Life is a wonderful invitation to immerse yourself in the work of the great British novelist Virginia Woolf.
The new director of the Festival d’Avignon, Tiago Rodrigues, has decided to put a language in the spotlight for each edition. It is English who inaugurates his mandate this year.
Throughout the festival, the public will thus be able to discover artists who are little known in France, like the astonishing Tim Crouch. Also to be discovered: All of It, presented from July 15 by the Royal Court Theatre.
On the dance side, the American Trajal Harrell will take possession of the main courtyard from July 18 with The Romeo. A variation around the Shakespearean hero which should create surprise.