In 2017, I returned to the Lucernaire and saw two more shows there. The first was an adaptation of the novel Les Misérables by Victor Hugo, adapted and directed by Manon Montel. I was curious to see how she would condense an 1800-page novel into a 90-minute play.
The solution was to “re-center” the story on one of the minor characters, Madame Thénardier, and let her narrate from her point of view. She also plays the accordion between scenes.
Madame Thénardier is the innkeeper’s wife and the mother of Éponine and Gavroche, among other children. In the novel she is quite an unsavory character (like her husband), but she is more sympathetic as the narrator and accordion player in this stage version.
Since I had recently read the novel (all 1800 pages, in French!) I had no trouble understanding what was going on.
The other show I saw at the Lucernaire in 2017 was a contemporary play called Le Déni d’Anna (The Denial of Anna), written and directed by Isabelle Jeanbrau. I bought the text at the Lucernaire bookshop and read the first act before show time, so I had no trouble following what was being said.
Anna doesn’t actually appear in the play, because she has just died when the play begins, but she is “interpreted by the music,” performed by a guitarist and a drummer who are on stage.
Anna was the mother, wife, niece and granddaughter of the characters who actually appear, and the story has to do with their unwillingness or inability to mourn her death. The adults, especially the husband, try to carry on as if nothing has happened, so they are frantically living a lie.
Twenty years later the children, now grown up, come and ask for the urn with their mother’s ashes, so they can finally give her a proper burial. Their father, who has misplaced the urn, is against having a funeral, saying it would be too expensive, but the children insist that they can afford it (on a les moyens) and that some things are more important than money. When the urn is finally found and the funeral is over, the father finally starts sobbing uncontrollably and says to his daughter “I’m unhappy, Diane, I’m so unhappy.” And she answers “Me too, Papa.” So the family finally starts to mourn Anna’s death, after twenty years.
Address of the Lucernaire: 53 Rue Notre-Dame des Champs, 75006 Paris.
Métro: Notre-Dame des Champs (line 12) or Vavin (line 4).
Vélib’ bicycle station 6006: 41 Rue Notre-Dame des Champs.
My photos in this post are from 2014 and 2017. I revised the text in 2022.
See more posts on the Lucernaire in Paris.
7 thoughts on “Two more plays at the Lucernaire”
Respect for having read “Les misérables” in French! 👍🏻
Thanks. French is still very much a foreign language for me, even though I have been reading lots of books in French for the past few years.
You write so beautifully. I feel like a hack in comparison. Your prose reminds me of John Baxter. Thanks for perusing my reading list. I work so hard on them and they’re rarely read. Susannah
Would you believe I had never heard of John Baxter? Well, I have now, and will start reading his books. Thanks for the tip!
You will love him since, you sound like siblings the way you view your surroundings. I actually own quite a few and at the moment, rereading A Year in Paris. It’s a delight even a 3rd time. He weaves history into his own story, an Australian migrating to Los Angels, marrying a French girl moving to Paris. I’m delighted you two are meeting. The other one I love is, The Most Beautiful Walk in the World: A Pedestrian in Paris. I warn you though, you’ll wanna pack and book passage. 🙂
Les Mis was my first COVID read. Did it in English though! One thing the lockdown did was give me time to read.