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Our review of Andromache at the Odéon-Théâtre de l'Europe: in red and black

At Racine, love runs wild, takes forbidden directions, sinks into dead ends.

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Our review of Andromache at the Odéon-Théâtre de l'Europe: in red and black

At Racine, love runs wild, takes forbidden directions, sinks into dead ends. The weakness of human hearts is as difficult to outline as the outline of a mist. So Pyrrhus should love Hermione, he loves Andromache. Let's be more specific: Orestes loves Hermione, who loves Pyrrhus, but Pyrrhus loves Andromache, who loves her husband, Hector, who was killed by Achilles, Pyrrhus' father. It's beautiful, tortuous, chaotic, it's Greek. A real salad. Andromache was Racine's first triumph, he could almost have left it there. One masterpiece is enough to establish posterity, but he will write, in ten years, around ten others which still bring joy to theaters. The director and scenographer Stéphane Braunschweig knows Racinian music.

In 2016, he performed at the Comédie-Française Britannicus and Iphigénie, in 2020, at the Odéon, of which he is the director. Even if you are tired in advance of admiring again and again the beautiful sonority of the verses of good old Racine, even if you know at the tips of your ink-stained school fingers the depth of his knowledge of the passions, his gentleness and pomp, Andromache mounted by Braunschweig will not disappoint you, because she looks like a painting; she contemplates herself like a Rothko painting. A canvas in red and black. The eye listens. A blood-colored circle covers the ground. Red will confuse the whole drama. This circle undoubtedly represents an arena in which a terrible battle took place, because contrary to what Giraudoux claimed, the Trojan War did take place and it left traces. All the main characters here are traumatized, imprisoned in their tears, made like rats. Under their feet, the blood is still boiling.

Also read: Our review of the play Le Rouge et le Noir at the Théâtre national de Bordeaux: the pleasant surprises of love

Oreste (Pierric Plathier), accompanied by his confidant friend Pylade (Jean-Baptiste Anoumon), arrives on stage from the hall. Both dressed in dark raincoats. Their conversation allows the two actors to put root worms in their mouths. Orestes outlines his plan to conquer Hermione, “ to bend her, carry her off, or die in her sight.” Then the curtain that veiled the decor rises. The light becomes denser on the scene of the tragedy to come. On the stage, a table and three white chairs, two of which are upside down. Then Pyrrhus (Alexandre Pallu) arrives: immediately, his size imposes him. Mid-length tow hair, military fatigues, rangers who act like cops! splat! in the pool of blood, the son of Achilles, king of Epirus, does not look well. In the middle of a dilemma. It's not easy to love Andromache, the beautiful Trojan captive, when the victorious Greek people demand the skin of her son, Astyanax.

Andromache, here she is. The coveted mother is played by the disturbing Bénédicte Cerutti. She delicately breathes human disorientation. As if uprooted, she too is in a dilemma. Stay faithful to your late husband or give yourself to Pyrrhus? But at what cost ? That of the death of his child. As for Hermione, promised to Pyrrhus, Stéphane Braunschweig glorifies her in her darkness. She is black with eyes, hair and jealousy; she is the wounded swan who invites primordial darkness.

Chloé Réjon, masterful, does not play Hermione, it is Hermione who comes out of her breath. Hands in her pockets, she broods over her revenge. Unrequited love pushes her to Pyrrhus' crime, and Orestes to madness. With Racine, we always fear a thick staging. That of Braunschweig does not give in to the fashion for projected videos or other painful gimmicks.

Also readOur review of Phèdre, at the Athénée theater: Seneca on a pedestal

It is set up austerely. City costumes here renounce illusion. The director is right to think that Racine's theater takes on its own, that the characters are naturally individualized through their actions and that Andromaque is an allegorical image of current events. And it is the spectator who finds himself captive of this remarkable representation.

Andromache. At the Odéon-Théâtre de l'Europe, until December 22. Such. : 01 44 85 40 40.

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