At the Avignon Festival, a star and a revelation

AFP, published on Tuesday 06 July 2021 at 14:24

We were expecting Isabelle Huppert, but it is an actor still little known to the general public who won all the votes: the actor Adama Diop caused a sensation on Monday evening in “La Cerisaie”, the opening show of the Festival d’Avignon.

The powerful game of the Senegalese-French actor eclipsed the star as well as the staging of the Portuguese Tiago Rodrigues, just named future boss of the prestigious theatrical event.

In the Cour d’honneur of the Palais des Papes, a year after the cancellation of the 2020 edition, the approximately 2,000 spectators reserved applause fed to the traditional sound of trumpets, composed by Maurice Jarre, which announces the beginning of a representation at the festival.

But two and a half hours later – after a 40-minute delay due to the queue and health pass controls – the same audience reserved polite applause for the salutes.

The criticism, mixed, evoked Tuesday a staging “in need of collective momentum” or “which lacks sap”, while saluting the quality of the actors.

– Emancipation –

Last play and one of the most performed by Tchekhov, “La Cerisaie” (1904), which evokes an era in full mutation, straddling “the world before” and “the world after”, had it all. find a special resonance among spectators after the global upheaval caused by the pandemic.

A penniless aristocrat, Lioubov (Isabelle Huppert) is back in her native Russia after years spent in Paris but her debts push her to sell her house to Lopakhine, son of moujik (Russian peasant) turned merchant (Adama Diop).

This will involve the destruction of the estate’s cherry orchard, a metaphor for the end of an era in Russia at the beginning of the 20th century, the end of the aristocracy and the advent of the bourgeoisie.

Lopakhine is “someone who emancipated himself from the history of his ancestors, from the history of slavery lived by his grandfather and his father. He succeeds himself, where his father failed and his grandfather, “said Adama Diop, interviewed by AFP TV during the press general on Saturday.

He said he was “very lucky” to play alongside Isabelle Huppert whose “crazy presence” pushed the cast to “take advantage of every moment on the set”.

Born in 1981, the actor with the physique of an athlete and the perfect diction, left Dakar in the 90s for Paris, where he went through the Conservatory and made his debut with directors like Cyril Teste, Julien Gosselin or Frank Castorf, before being revealed in 2018 in the role of “Macbeth” at the Odeon.

He would be the first black actor to play this role in France, where diversity on the stage is advancing slowly.

– “Theater athlete” –

A question on which Tiago Rodrigues emphasizes, with a cast including Nadim Ahmed, the former footballer turned actress Océane Caïraty, Alison Valence who had also played in “Macbeth” at the Odeon or even Tom Adjibi (the one who caused the most laughter in the audience thanks to his interpretation of Epikhodov, the accountant of the estate).

This version of “La Cerisaie”, born from a meeting in 2018 between the director and Isabelle Huppert, is the third play by the Portuguese at the Avignon Festival, of which he will take the reins from September 2022, succeeding Olivier Py.

“This is the first time that she has played the Chekhov and it is the first time that I have directed a play by him … I am an atheist but if I had a saint who protects me that would be Saint Chekhov! “, joked Mr. Rodrigues, for whom Huppert is an” athlete of high competition of theater “.

“We have the capacity, through the theater, to use Chekhov as a magnifying glass to look at our world. The pandemic will be present in the eyes of the spectator but I am sure that in ten years, + Le Cerisaie + will still talk about everything that is happening in the world, “he told AFP.

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