Isabelle Huppert opens the Festival d’Avignon in a “Cherry Orchard” that lacks sap

It was one of those crazy days in Avignon that saw Tiago Rodrigues appointed head of the world’s first theater festival, in the morning by Roselyne Bachelot, and who the same evening opened the festival in the Cour d’Honneur of the Palace. popes, in front of 2,000 spectators vaccinated or provided with a PCR test and hungry for the theater. With, headlining, Isabelle Huppert, at the initiative of the project.

Enthusiastic applause from the audience responded to Maurice Jarre’s trumpets announcing the start of the show. An audience delighted to meet shoulder to shoulder, facing the mythical stage of the Palais des Papes and its high walls that you have to know how to tame. Two and a half hours later, the applause was less enthusiastic.

“La Cerisaie”, opening of the 75th edition of the Festival d’Avignon (CHRISTOPHE RAYNAUD DE LAGE)

It must be said that we expected a lot from this Cerisaie, the story of a shift between the world before and the world after which could herald the Russian Revolution, and the hope for everyone of a social rise. The last play by Chekhov who knew he had been condemned by tuberculosis, directed by a leading director (Antony and Cleopatra and blow were performed in Avignon), in the translation of André Markowicz and Françoise Morvan.

On the stage, chandeliers with tassels hang from metal figures, the ancient seats of the court occupy the immense stage. Isabelle Huppert is Lioubov, a penniless aristocrat who returns, after 5 years of absence and the death of her son, in La Cerisaie, her estate which will be auctioned.

Adama Diop and Isabelle Huppert in

Adama Diop and Isabelle Huppert in “La Cerisaie” (CHRISTOPHE RAYNAUD DE LAGE)

Accompanied by two musicians (omnipresent music), the whole small community accompanies its return with a nostalgic and warm welcome song. One of the rare moments of emotion in a show that very quickly dilutes and stretches out through staging choices that screen both the empathy and the acidity that emanates from the text, sometimes crushed under the electric guitar riffs. Staging, which, in the end, does not bring real light to the room.

“La Cerisaie”, directed by Tiago Rodrigues (CHRISTOPHE RAYNAUD DE LAGE)

We are disappointed, first of all for Isabelle Huppert, a wonderful actress who knows how to give her character of chieftain, of a whimsical woman, the ambivalence and the melancholy of one who does not want to choose and lets things be done with fatality. Around her, in the gallery of portraits so well drawn by Tchekhov, some pull their pins out of the game. Adama Diop is a remarkable Lopakine. While he is often reduced to a cynic, Rodrigues gives real depth to this son of a serf turned rich merchant who would like to transform the estate and who will suddenly end up buying it.

Also noticed, Suzanne Aubert (Iphigenia in Stéphane Braunschweig’s version) as a chambermaid, or even Tom Adjibi (The Revival-History of the theater by Milau Rau) who plays the estate accountant with quirky humor.

Adama Diop in

Adama Diop in “La Cerisaie” (CHRISTOPHE RAYNAUD DE LAGE)

The others, a little lost in a form of choreography imposed on them by the director and which ends up appearing in vain, are still struggling to exist. In particular, the excellent Alex Descas in the role of Isabelle Huppert’s brother, here quite non-existent.

Isabelle Huppert and Marcel Bozonnet in

Isabelle Huppert and Marcel Bozonnet in “La Cerisaie” (CHRISTOPHE RAYNAUD DE LAGE)

And then there is the disarming Marcel Bozonnet en Firs, the faithful servant of the family, to whom return the last words of this twilight room which resonate in the night of Avignon like a regret: “Life, she has passed, we have as if not lived.”

“La Cerisaie” by Anton Tchekhov, directed by Tiago Rodrigues
11 performances in the main courtyard of the Palais des Papes
July 5, 6, 8, 9, 10 11, 12, 14, 15, 16, 17 at 10 p.m.
Duration: 2h30
Avignon Festival

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