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Successful comics adapted on the boards

Comic strips, often transposed to cinema, are more rarely transposed onto the stage.

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Successful comics adapted on the boards

Comic strips, often transposed to cinema, are more rarely transposed onto the stage. But texts sometimes lend themselves to this, with precise narration, crafted dialogues and punchlines, effective ingredients for reaching fans of both arts, or even attracting younger generations to the theater.

Bestseller in two volumes translated into 20 languages, Culottées, portraits of women drawn and written by Pénélope Bagieu (Gallimard comic strip), released in 2016-2017, arrives at the Studio-théâtre de la Comédie française in Paris, until 3rd of March. This is the first time that the Frenchman has adapted a comic book.

Also read: The BD box: Les Culottées or the tough women of Pénélope Bagieu

The successful screenwriter Fabcaro has seen his hilarious Zaï zaï zaï zaï performed several times on stage in recent years. His Formica: a tragedy in three acts, a corrosive family tragi-comedy, staged in 2023, is going on tour again in the coming weeks, to Nantes and Pessac in particular. “It's a challenge, all the same, to adapt a comic strip,” told AFP Justine Heynemann, who directed Culottées, helped by her accomplice Rachel Arditi for the adaptation. But, she continues, the comic strip contains in itself a “dramaturgical potential”, with “an extremely well-written narration, a very precise scenario in images and words”, “very funny dialogues”, “very embodied characters » and “a mix of comedy and drama that makes you want to see them on stage”.

The two volumes of the comic tell the stories of women who have all existed and faced numerous obstacles, shattering prejudices: from the Afghan rapper to the gynecologist of ancient Greece, including the bearded woman who became the mascot of the hairy during the First World War. On the Studio-théâtre set, five French actresses, gathered in a wooden cabaret-style setting, jeans, sneakers and accessories for each role, tell, sing, evoke these personal stories, through several processes that the staging allows . There “a monologue”, “an interview”, “a letter read”; here “a meeting between several of them”, explains Justine Heynemann, who also added dance, songs and music to be able to bring out “funny moments and moving moments”.

Amélie Etasse fell in love with Formica (Six Feet Under Earth, 2019), in which she found “good starting material”: “a play written like a closed door”, with “a main plot” - a family, gathered around a Sunday chicken, who have nothing to say to each other - but also "the use of the ancient chorus", as in Greek tragedies. With the author's agreement, this actress on television and in the theater, for whom this is her first production, nevertheless needed a year and a half of rewriting, with Clément Séjourné, to be able to adapt it. : “we had to lengthen the comic strip scenes, because 6 or 7 bubbles goes by too quickly” on stage.

“The great thing is that you don’t necessarily have to be realistic. With Fabcaro, we can go into the absurd,” she says. And “that’s so many punchlines on set!” Which translates for example, for actors, “by a technicality that resembles Feydeau”. She also notes that “it’s not that common” to adapt comics to the theater. “Perhaps because theater fans don’t know comics?”, she points out. In any case, she pleads for this type of “accessible” play to “bring young people to the theater, especially those who might have preconceptions.”

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