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Our review of Passeport at the Théâtre de la Renaissance: Alexis Michalik’s visa for a planned success

One thing that cannot be denied: Alexis Michalik is a great professional.

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Our review of Passeport at the Théâtre de la Renaissance: Alexis Michalik’s visa for a planned success

One thing that cannot be denied: Alexis Michalik is a great professional. He is the Ragueneau of the theater scene, he knows how to make pâtés and delicious cakes to measure. Give him any subject, he will make it a triumph for you. This boy has a gift and whatever he does on stage, he will have the reverence of the spectators whom he holds in high esteem. He doesn't care about them, he caresses them with the grain. After Intra muros (about the prison world), A love story (sentimental and societal comedy) and Edmond (grandiose making-off of Cyrano), here is Passeport, about the fate of migrants in the “jungle” of Calais.

Rather than art, this latest show, presented at the Théâtre de la Renaissance, in Paris, is a seductive painting of a humanitarian drama that deserves neither trumpeting nor scorn. We will find few things here that cannot be viewed without pleasure. Alexis Michalik has a remarkable quality: a sense of rhythm. He knows that it is very impolite to bore the public. Its parts are extremely well oiled. Under the hood, you can hear the purring of a Formula 1 engine. A real clock. We can roughly see how this gifted mechanic works.

A subject that imposes itself by its outcome. The final twist, as they say, is essential before embarking on writing. This reversal, in Passeport, is entirely successful. It would be cruel to reveal this to you. But does a piece stand when it falls, no matter how well designed it is? Between the beginning and the end, the spectator will not look at his watch. He will be taken not by the plot but by a sort of tired fascination, a bit like those completely idiotic but well-crafted novels that publishers call “page turners”; the kind of books that make you miss a metro station. Alexis Michalik is also in - sorry, sorry for these anglicisms! -, the “ feel good”. This is a comedy that is not really satirical.

Let's summarize the story: Issa (Jean-Louis Garçon), a young Eritrean left for dead in the "jungle" of Calais after a beating, has lost his memory. Only his passport attests to his identity. He then begins a long obstacle course strewn with pitfalls in order to obtain a residence permit, surrounded by two companions in misfortune, the Tamil Arun (Kevin Razy) and the Syrian Ali (Fayçal Safi). At the same time, here is Lucas Lefèvre. He was born in Mayotte. He is black. Michel and Christine (Patrick Blandin and Ysmahane Yaqini), his adoptive parents, are French people living in Calais. Lucas is a good boy; he is a policeman. He too, like Issa, is in search of his identity and only thinks of one thing: one day going to Mayotte to meet his biological mother.

On these two destinies, Alexis Michalik weaves his colorful tapestry without stopping. We follow Issa to the hospital, in the kitchens of a restaurant, under a tent or in a container in the “jungle” of Calais, under the bridges of Paris, at the temporary reception center, at the French Office of protection of refugees and stateless people or in a library where he meets Yasmine; we also follow Lucas to his parents, in his service vehicle, etc.

The decorations are basic. Director Michalik doesn't bother with anything superfluous. He gets to the point. A café-theatre side. A happy mess. Projected slides place us in a hospital emergency room, in a truck, in a restaurant and even on a beach. It all works, it all slides like clockwork and when the subject gets bogged down, the author Michalik pulls out of his hat one or two well-timed jokes that make the room laugh, a room that he controls like a master of clocks .

In the middle of the play, a scene breaks the routine of the story. It's a dinner at Lucas' parents' house. The latter introduces them to his girlfriend, Jeanne (Manda Touré), whom he met during speed dating. Jeanne is a young journalist of Malian origin born in Toulouse. Between her and Michel, Lucas's father, the evening quickly turns into a mess on the issue of immigration. But, let's be reassured, soon we will realize that Michel, a bit racist, is not a bad guy. Passeport is a concentrate of good feelings where everyone is beautiful, everyone is kind. The seven actresses have undeniable comic strength. The Michalik brigade, this prince of entertainment, is running at full speed. The author of Edmond has the vocation of a troupe leader and we have no doubt about the future success of this Passeport, which is however not a very successful play. It contains awkwardness and heartbreaking naivety. But the main thing, for a pre-established audience, is there: crazy energy.

“Passport”, at the Théâtre de la Renaissance (Paris 10th), until June 30. Such. : 01 42 08 18 50.

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