Two shows, two creations are currently being played at the Théâtre du Rond-Point, to the delight of lovers of theatrical performance, fantasy and dreams. Upstairs, in the small Topor room, the member of the Comédie Française, Jérémy Lopez, is Max Linder, silent film star too quickly forgotten, while in the Renaud-Barraud room Jacques Gamblin is Harvey, sweet-crazy about a play to American success and to which Laurent Pelly gives a beautiful shine. Stories of dreams carried by two great actors.
Max: Jérémy Lopez reincarnated as Max Linder
Of this king of silent cinema at the beginning of the 20th century, we know practically only the name that is displayed on a cinema on the Grands Boulevards in Paris. Max Linder, born Gabriel-Maximilien Leuvielle in 1883 in Bordeaux, very quickly became a film star after a timid start at the Bordeaux Conservatory. It was Charles Pathé, the man who invented the industrial model of cinema, later imitated by Hollywood, who noticed him and made him work very young in his studios in Vincennes. Max Linder is launched, he has a devouring energy and ambition, adopts the elegant outfit of the hat, the cane and the gentleman’s waistcoat, silhouette that Charlie Chaplin will adopt in a burlesque way, very inspired by the French star who now realizes his courts films distributed and produced by Pathé. But the Great War of 1914-18 will cut the wings of Max Linder who, injured and despite a trip to Hollywood, sinks into depression. Madly in love with a 17-year-old minor, Ninette, who will give birth to a little girl, he will end up kidnapping his young wife and the bodies of the two spouses will be found with their veins slashed at the Hotel Baltimore.
Stéphane Olivié Bisson immersed himself in this formidable and dramatic life, thanks to the books and documentaries made by Linder’s daughter, Maud, whose family was torn to bury her cinematographic traces. Jérémy Lopez, in the half-light of a dimly lit room, stark naked, talks to his daughter. The black and white film that he unrolls before our eyes while recounting his life is riddled with dross, nightmares and dreams realized or aborted, due to a lack of love, a thirst for existence and shine uncommon. Then the actor puts on his dazzling stage clothes, his eyes black and bright as lightning, his agile body, with the flexibility of an acrobat, to tell us about the crazy trajectory of a little man with a mustache in in tailcoat that crosses the screen to delight the eyes of the spectators. The text follows this biography with passionate grace, but also some hagiographic lengths. In a scenography of radical sobriety, the actor, directed by the author, is a will-o’-the-wisp, a black swan who plays his life every second, tightrope walker on the rope of his desires, in fragile balance between anxieties and nightmares. It’s great, and we leave the show stunned, with the desire to know more.
Harvey: in search of a giant rabbit
Between Lewis Caroll and the American society of the 1940s, there is a character who hit the headlines of audiences on Broadway: Harvey, born from the pen of Mary Chase, a talented writer, and whose story was played at the box office closed from 1944 to 1949, won the Pulitzer Prize and was filmed with James Stewart as Elwood. The play, unknown in France, seduced the director Laurent Pelly and his adapter Agathe Mélinand. It remained to find the right actor for the role of Elwood, inconsolable and fanciful hero in love with his friend Harvey, a 1m90 rabbit, who unfortunately remains invisible to the rest of society. Jacques Gamblin, a slender silhouette and aerial gait, transfigures the character by making him a delicious, affable, deliciously lit being.
As always with Laurent Pelly, the decor, the costumes, the attention to sound and light are essential, and the box to play, which constitutes the mobile platforms of this bourgeois house, is as simple as it is picturesque. Comedy with slamming doors, fantastic tale, the story also carries its share of misfortunes and we will soon want to lock up Elwood, who sees Harvey everywhere, in a psychiatric hospital. But the mad are not the ones you think they are. Pierre Aussedat portrays a psychiatrist more restless than a pressure cooker, Katell Jan a shameless nurse, Christine Brücher a sister trembling with dread and eager for surprises with her daughter, Agathe L’Huillier, who does not lose one to be part of a spectacle. From bourgeois society to the psychiatric hospital, there is only one step that Elwood and his rabbit Harvey, whom we will only see in painting, will cross cheerfully not without a certain melancholy, that which seizes the freest beings when we want to lock them up with normative padlocks. A cheerfully off-the-wall comedy, sweet and light as a glass of champagne, a little bitter like the day after a party and very well done!
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“Max” and “Harvey” at the Théâtre du Rond-Point: duo of dreamers for a dream without return – Artistikrezo