Immersing in Theater at the Avignon Festival in France

I spent two days in Avignon and watched 4 performances. The pace was fast, but people were extremely excited, as if watching performances and daily life were integrated.

After more than ten hours of flying, changing to high-speed rail, and then changing to small trains, we came to Avignon, a small town in southern France, to participate in the 77th Avignon Theater Festival. The moment you enter the small town of Avignon, the whereabouts of tourists are mixed with theatre, and ostentatious entertainers can be seen everywhere on the street, distributing small cards and promoting their repertoires. Just as one wave of people left, another wave came, and this wave after wave was like a tide, one after another, and the flow continued.

Putting down our luggage at the hotel, we rushed to the Black Oak Theater as scheduled. This is a theater remodeled from an old church. The stage play “Beauty and the Beast” was performed, and the audience was full. The story tells the story of a rich father and his three daughters. The father asked the children what they wanted. The eldest daughter and the second daughter asked for what they wanted, but the youngest daughter didn’t want any property, only flowers. For this reason, the father strayed into the place where the beast lived, and the beast asked the father to use something to pay for it. As a result, the youngest daughter was sent to the place where the beast lived to make up for it. Finally, the beast was moved by the beauty and kindness of the youngest daughter. The story seems to be relatively conventional, but the actors really acted well, especially the father and the youngest daughter, who were impressive. The actor who plays the youngest daughter is a graduate of the theater, and I am very happy to be able to perform vividly in French. The lighting of the stage and the use of multimedia are also very good. After the performance, I asked about the main creative team. Their lighting and multimedia use high-tech real-time tracking video technology, but unlike some domestic stage art techniques that are overused, here it seems that the high-tech processing of stage art is extremely low-key, and people’s attention is always on the stage. In the performance of the dramatic characters, not in the brilliance of the dance beauty.

During the Summer Theater Festival, theaters are highly utilized. The Black Oak Theater arranges 4 performances every day, 12 consecutive performances in 3 days, from 10 am to late night, and they are different repertoires. A crew has just finished, and the next crew will enter the stage to set up the stage, and then there will be performances.

Evenings are prime time for shows. We booked a show at the Pope’s Palace Amphitheatre. The open-air stage of the Pope’s Palace is probably the place with the largest number of spectators in Avignon. The repertoire is very attractive. It is called “Romeo”, which is based on Shakespeare’s plays. When we came to the Pope’s Palace with the crowd, the medieval architecture was extremely magnificent and it was the most iconic building in Avignon. Entering the open-air theater inside, the stage is temporarily built, with the Pope’s Palace in the background, and thousands of people watch it. It feels a bit like the Colosseum in Rome. The venue and atmosphere are exciting without performances. At first I was worried that the sound and lighting of the show would not be as good as the indoor ones, but when the show started, all these worries were superfluous, and it can be said that the sound and light were excellent. This is a foreign crew, and the performance is not actually a stage play, but a dance performance similar to modern dance style. Afterwards, I found the official manual of the Avignon Theater Festival and learned that the crew took the mysterious part of the name Romeo. Therefore, during the more than an hour of walking on the stage, the actors walked slowly in modern dance steps, their bodies were extremely relaxed and soft, and they performed various movements. Regardless of whether you appreciate these actions or not, from their demonstrations, you can see the usual strict training. But it is estimated that many audience members, like me, could not understand the connection between such stage walks and Shakespeare’s plays.

The performance at the Palace of the Pope is an official repertoire invited by the Avignon Theater Festival. There are more than 40 repertoires invited this year, which were strictly selected by the main committee from many registered repertoires in advance. In addition, there are more than 1,500 performances rehearsed or invited by various theaters. You can imagine how fierce the competition is.

The next morning, we went to the Halles Theatre, which is also a large-scale theater with 3 performance venues, and Ionesco’s “Rhinoceros” was staged at exactly 10 o’clock. We watched the performance for an hour and a half. The repertoire was rehearsed by the theater itself, and the actors were from Romania. Before the performance, we drank coffee with us in the yard. When it was time for the performance, it was impossible to imagine that it was the one I saw just now. The performance on the stage, the kind of character control The ability is extremely strong, and the rhythm of the whole play is also very comfortable. The director treats “Rhinoceros” as the erosion of people by consumer culture. The stage was full of chubby customers pushing shopping carts full of merchandise, and eventually the carts and their merchandise overwhelmed people. In addition to the director’s creativity, the choreography makes me curious. The dance is very simple, just a few flat plates of different colors. The color changes according to the development of the plot. In China, people in the industry may like to use “freehand drama” to name it, but when it comes to western stage design, can it be covered by “freehand drama”?

After leaving the Halles Theater, after a brief lunch, we went to the Black Oak Theater. We originally hoped to communicate with the owner of the theater, and it happened that an Argentine body play was about to start. The host asked us if we wanted to see it, and of course we wanted to see the Argentinian artist perform. The theater was full of people, even the aisles were full of people. It is conceivable how much this show has been expected by the audience. There is only one actor in the whole play. Washing, exercising, and reading at home in the morning, the upstairs neighbors banging sound interfered with his life, and he had no choice but to switch multiple channels to watch boring TV programs. In particular, the imitation of the performances of men and women on TV made the audience in the theater laugh knowingly from time to time. The one-hour show passed quickly, and the audience seemed to be enjoying themselves. Many people rushed to the stage to pay tribute to the actors.

I spent two days in Avignon and watched 4 performances. The pace was fast, but people were extremely excited, as if watching performances and daily life were integrated.

People shuttle in the streets and alleys, and occasionally enter the theater, just to watch the performance in a small performance space; when they leave the theater and go to the street, they will meet a larger performance space. Here you will meet crew members from all over the world walking around the streets, singing, playing and singing, especially those young artists, singing and dancing in high spirits, which truly makes people enjoy the variety of contemporary world drama.

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