The theatre · Practicalities (La Vie Matérielle) · MARGUERITE DURAS

The theatre · Practicalities (La Vie Matérielle) · MARGUERITE DURAS
Extrait · Marguerite Duras speaks to Jérôme Beaujour about her vision of theater.
Marguerite Duras traduite par Barbara Bray
Grove Press New York
Langue: Anglais
Tous droits réservés

The theatre

I hope to be able to get out of the house this winter and produce some theatre that's read, not acted. Acting doesn't bring anything to a text. On the contrary, it detracts from it - lessens its immediacy and depth, weakens its muscles and dilutes its blood. That's what I think today. But I think it often. Deep down, that's how I really see the theatre.

However, as that kind of theatre doesn't exist, I've tended to forget and go back to thinking about the usual kind. But since the experiment at the Théâtre du Rond-Point in January 1985, I've thought what I'm saying now. Absolutely ; once and for all. An actor reading a book aloud, as in Blue Eyes, Black Hair, has nothing else to do but be still and bring the text out of the book by means of the voice alone. No need to gesticulate to show how the body is suffering because of the words being uttered : the whole drama resides in the words themselves and the body remains unmoved. I don't know of any theatrical utterance as powerful as that of the officiants at the various kinds of mass. The Pope's people speak and sing in a curious flat language in which every syllable is given equal weight, without tonic or any other accent; and yet there's nothing to compare with it in either theatre or opera. In the recitatives in the St John and St Matthew Passions, and in Stravinsky's Noces and Symphony of Psalms there are similar acoustic dimensions, seemingly newly created, in which the full resonance of the words is heard as it never is in ordinary life. That's what I believe in. Only that.

In Grüber's Bérénice, which was almost without movement, I didn't like the rudiments of motion that remained - they distanced the words. Bérénice's laments, even conveyed by a great actress like Ludmilla Michaël, didn't have the acoustic dimension they deserved. Why do people still fool themselves about it ? Bérénice and Titus are narrators ; Racine is the director; the audience is humanity. Why play it in a drawing room or a boudoir ? I don't care what anyone thinks about what I've been saying. Give me a theatre to have Bérénice read in, and they'll see. The beginnings of what I'm saying now lie in the conversation between the young loyers in Savannah Bay, what I've called the 'reported voices'. Something strange happened when the play was done in The Hague - something never achieved by my own two dear actresses. They held the whole theatre with their eyes, they just gazed at the audience, yet they showed what can happen in the theatre when the story of the loyers is merely related.

No play by a woman had been performed at the Comédie Française since 1900, nor at Vilar's TNP, nor at the Odéon, nor at Villeurbanne, nor at the Schaubühne, nor at Strehler's Piccolo Teatro. Not one woman playwright or one woman director. And then Sarraute and I began to be performed by the Barraults. George Sand's plays were produced in Paris, but for seventy, eighty, ninety years no play by a woman had been performed there or perhaps in the whole of Europe. I found that out for myself. No one ever told me. And yet it was there for all to see. And then one day I got a letter from Jean-Louis Barrault asking if I'd adapt my long short story, Days in the Trees, for the stage. I agreed. The adaptation was rejected by the censors. The play wasn't performed until 1965. It was a great success. But none of the critics pointed out that it was the first play by a woman to be performed in France for nearly a century.