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Jean Anouilh

Jean Anouilh

The life of Jean Anouilh is exactly like that of the great playwrights like Molière. We begin to narrate childhood and then success and suddenly, is no longer a man but of his work: we put the titles telling what they contain and the success or failure that comes.

Biography of Jean Anouilh

A birth in Bordeaux of a father tailor and a mother piano teacher, studies in the Liceo Chaptal, early verses, a vacation in Arcachon and lighting attending the work of Giraudoux, Siegfried, in the comedy of the Champs-Élysées where he discovers that the Theater can absorb poetry… This first impression is enriched when it attends the bride and groom of the Eiffel tower that Jean Cocteau gives to the Parisian audience.

“I don’t have a biography “, he said. In the afternoon, he published the editions of the Mesa Ronde (his usual editor), a scrapbook, the Viscountess of Eristal did not receive his mechanical broom. All the Anouilh are in this title: An impatient nobility, the antiquated charm of an appliance. It is as realistic as it is crazy; It sounds like a first replica as soon as the curtain rises; The type of phrase that gives the tone of a room to the Encenciar the decor. To be honest, he was holding this sentence from his first job.

It had entered the department stores of the Louvre to answer the letters of the clients. The first card he had to deal with was a phrase: “The Viscountess of Eristal did not receive her mechanical broom. ” One imagines what could trigger in the spirit of the young Jean Anouilh… The following month, he left his post and entered an advertising agency, Damour, as an editor; An essential position for the formation of a pen, because it requires reactivity, creativity and correction in an economy of the word.

A distressing career

From the first piece, the Hermine, the success is in the meeting. It should be said that the distribution is brilliant, especially with Pierre Fresnay who just triumphed with Marcel Pagnol. This is the story of two lovers who can only marry for titles and money issues. It follows a murder, the police, the arrest, the forgiveness and the terrible taste of unsolved love.

Jean Anouilh
Jean Anouilh

Every writer has his director. Giraudoux had Louis Jouvet; Salacrou worked with Charles Dullin. That is not yours; The young Anouilh is at the service of the Great Jouvet in the comedy of the Champs-Élysées. But the two men barely get along. Jouvet treats Anouilh as “Shabby “. Louis will despise Jean that he’ll have to find another mentor. However, he gives him a new piece. The director puts it in a drawer, probably without reading it. Two or three years later, Georges Pitoëff will put her on stage. Therefore, with the traveler without baggage and the savage, Anouilh keeps his reputation and is out of financial difficulties. The PITOËFF took control of its texts. Later, André Barsacq will be the accomplice. Jean Anouilh had dreamed of becoming Giraudoux, he would follow another path. The success of the traveler without baggage should have disturbed Jouvet. Anouilh would be a class of classicism. Now he’s looking for himself, confesses in Georges Pitoëff: “I’m very anxious. I feel that I have more talent than a year ago: I can do things right and everything escapes me… It is also frightening not to arrive at the theatre at the moment of the climax of an established art, a classic tragedy or a bourgeois comedy, in which there is more to let go… When it is necessary to recreate a form, it is infernal. You cannot figure out what you and the traveler without baggage have enriched and paralyzed me. I feel ready for a poetic and artificial theater… With, however, jackets, melon hats and appearances of realism. For the moment, the two pieces that I cannot do, it would be enough that I attach them to a Greek subject – like Giraudoux – to make them poetic and naked as I want them to be. »

This anguish will hold him all his life. Although he was successful on triumph, he panicked in front of his own creations. He will confess in the program of the navel, that it is “Russian roulette”…! Comedians tell that on General evenings he could leave the theatre and flee. “We are sharp skinned, old man. If you think it’s a life to spend his Bachot every year! “exclaims the author in the Grotto (1961). Doubt, always: “none! no! I have no talent! I have to start making movies! Or journalism!… Anything! Here, I’d rather be critical! »

In defiance of intellectuals

Even today, he suffers from the contempt that intellectuals give to the word Boulevard. The Boulevard Theatre, it is left to the Plebs; the same one that the author hates because he knows that she is capable of the worst as the revolution or silence before the purification. But the Boulevard is the Avenue of triumph when the confidential theatres (or theatres of the public service) form the “sneaky maze of obscure streets” of esteem. The Boulevard is in the theatre what the polard is to the novel: an easy genre (!) diffused to the greatest number, first immediate and sometimes considerable recipes. The facility in short. Popular ovations are the money of a vulgar color.

Yes, Anouilh has a boulevardier side with phrases like: “women are like soup, so don’t let them cool down.” We could say the same with the cheese soufflé. Who’s talking? Always the vulgar and funny type (because shifted) that brings to the drama his banter and the firecracker triggering the laughter of the Secretaries.

Boulevardier because of vaudeville? A “light comedy, entertaining, fertile intrigue and twists,” defines the Robert. The author of the twentieth century has two ways: the police comedy or the plot of manners. The first is Anglo-Saxon, the second is very French. Anouilh is French. He will therefore place on the plateau stories of buttocks and women, of light men and mistresses in evil of revenge; abandoning the wives to their boudoir and their dignity as the Countess of the marriage of Figaro. If he kills the seducer (for all Don Juan is doomed to flames), he also accepts that the abandoned woman has her revenge in her soul. The word vaudeville evokes Feydeau, the slamming doors and this dramatic efficiency that makes the salt of the theatre. Anouilh has that rhythm; a burlesque package for a tragic packet coming from the Atrides. Only the theater enrobes everything. And faith in dramaturgy assumes a look at the world.

A boulevardier in spite of himself but who would claim him high and strong; This is a first paradox at Anouilh.

Neither Brecht nor Artaud

The theatre of Anouilh is hardly played. Several reasons for this: his plays have a large number of characters, too many important for the economy of a theatre; his work remains shared between the boulevardier and the classical (too classic?); his rightsholders, it seems, would look too rigorously at projects, perhaps seeking to validate the staging options. This third reason is probably based on rumours, and it is worth looking at the work of Jean Anouilh, perhaps questioning his modernity. He could have written the word of Gide: “give a concession to the public, it is to give a wrinkle to the work.”

On the economy of the theatre, we now distinguish between two types of pieces: professional pieces and amateur pieces. For professionals, the author must write a text of 1 hour 15 minutes without intermission, staging two, three characters, four to the greatest maximum. We will therefore favour the duos. The amateur theatre, on the contrary, seeks a multitude of characters (to entrust to each one a role, even a small role) with a majority of female roles; women engaged in dramatic activity more surely than men.

From this point of view, economical, the theatre of Anouilh is a theatre for amateurs. Because it is first a troop theatre. Anouilh dreamed of troop. He dreamed of his theatre according to the troop he had. A troupe is a family. “When I have no more ideas, I invent a character,” he said. Half-boutade actually like so many of his replicas. The troupe was the real material of his theatre. Like all the authors, he attended rehearsals to read the text, to listen to the echoes of his voice, to arrange such or such a passage so that it fell better in the mouth. But from these moments, he lost nothing and many attitudes are found in the pieces that have a theatre, a scene, the profession, at the heart of the action.

We remain fascinated by the regularity of his production and his writing.

The fantasy of life, if it can be realized finds its setting in the theatre. Reality divides the real (necessarily bourgeois, always agreed) and the youth, always idealistic. Young people seek to triumph over their happiness: they succeed most of the time.

The regularity of the theatre could make the audience sulk: “it’s still du Anouilh”, it was said to apologize for not going to applaud a new show that was persuaded to know the themes – the aristos are bastards, the priests are useless, the commoners come out as they can, lovers are useless, but the world is the world and the juvenile revolt returns regularly as a spring taste. It will also be said, to apologize again, that the public of Anouilh was made only of bourgeois before being replaced in the capital by the provincial coaches more attracted by a poster than by a content. What do we really blame him for? Neither Brecht nor Artaud, the two pillars of modernity: “all that has transformed the dramatic writing and contemporary representation, the Brechtian form, the researches inspired by Artaud, the experiences from abroad, all this seems have slipped on Anouilh like water on the duck feathers, “writes J.J. Roubine. It is clear that the engaged theatre of a Jean Vilar would not have approached the feathers of the Lark. We had to go through Brecht and Artaud. Out of them, a point of salvation, at the risk of copying them, of the singer and of disgusted the public weary of a theatre without intrigue, as he will later tire of novels without stories. Anouilh followed Molière and this theatre does not have the wrinkles of those who concede to criticism. Tired of experimental theater? The public does not necessarily want a fairy tale to the Giraudoux or the absurd to the Ionesco, but the pieces that put it on stage. And this is precisely what Jean Anouilh realizes with fancy, with craft (he said himself a craftsman), motivated also by the Misanthropy and the alacrity of the one who sees the judgement prevail over the enthusiasm. The inspiration? “It’s an invention of people who have never created anything. We maintain the legend to argue, but between us it is a bluff. The poet knows only the command, “says Ornifle.

Who is he really?

Even on a philosophy, and first political level, Anouilh is unclassifiable. During the dark years of the occupation, he avoids going to war, is played in Paris, publishes in the journal collaborationist I am everywhere, but makes play Antigonus who advocates the refusal of totalitarianism. At the time of liberation, he rises against the purification – he will draw a coin, the poise fair (1961) and a real subject for poor Bitos or the head dinner (1956). Bourgeois theater? It has been said. Opposing Brecht and his Marxist vision of theatre? That’s for sure. Anouilh he write a theater on the right? These classifications knock him out. He is what he is and he says what he has to say.

For him, the ideal world would be ordained. But according to what rules? There are people of great birth and the others. Alas, the former did not take the world into responsibility: “I have never possessed that my name and many ties,” said a count. And I’m probably incapable. Likewise, there are the pure who are fighting against history and who are laminated: Joan of arc in the Alouette, Antigone, Becket or Thomas more. When the curtain opens, we know it’s ruined. Anouilh, an idealist? It would be easy to classify it on the right, so we would know what to stick to. He dreams of a purity that would be the unity of oneself: “I know what you are going to tell me; you have to return to yourselves. I’ve come home a few times. There was no one there. Then, after a while, I was afraid and I came out to make noise outside to reassure me, said the General of Saint-Pré (the waltz of the Bullfighters).

He claims to Molière (“our tender patron”, he writes in the program of the navel, although not having the generosity of the honest man of the seventeenth century. For him, man is a Wolf for man and the external bountes are only social conventions or needs to indulge. He would have been a monarchist if a man could be King. Only behold, greatness, heroism, bravery, if they exist, belong only to the useless revolt of the youth (Antigone) who sacrifices himself when the sacred no longer exists.

Like Molière, he has the cult of youth and the concern of the troupe. It allows him to create a family, the time of a show. It is its first material, its place of observation that surrounds it. Like Molière, he creates strong characters in the mouth and temperament that make the world revolve around themselves. Harpagon, Arnolfe, Orgon, argan, Monsieur Jourdain are the ancestors of Onifle, of the General of Saint-pé, of Antoine de Saint-flour. From La Valse des Toréadors, Anouilh will confess that he has worn a “soft tone of tragic farce”. Impregnation goes as far as the aftershocks. We remember Sganarelle asking DOM Juan what he believes in, and hearing himself say, “I believe that two and two are four and four and four are eight.”

“But you don’t believe in anything on this earth?” asked Ornifle. The answer is clear: “I think two plus two are not four and four and four are not eight.” Ornifle’s doctors are running as soon as he’s unwell. They arrive before joining a costume party. They are disguised as doctors of… Molière! And diagnose canned: “the lung!” as Toinette in the imaginary sick.

And since Molière is staged in the impromptu of Versailles, Anouilh writes the character of the author in the cave, who summons the comedians, speaks with them of their role and orders before the spectator the play that takes place. On the day of his death, Michel Galabru, who played Huluberlu at the Théâtre du Palais Royal, entrusted Patrice Carmouze.

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