We know readers who only read detective novels. They eat one or two a week. They devoured everything: Sir Conan Doyle, Agatha Christie, G. K. Chesterton, Dashiell Hammett, James Hadley Chase, Exbrayat, Simenon, Boileau-Narcejac, Léo Malet, Patricia Highsmith… The detective novel reader is a maniac. A somewhat special individual who sometimes prefers dogs to cats on the pretext that there are no police cats. This “private” reader knows that the creator of this genre is called Edgar Poe, who elevated it to the rank of one of the fine arts. The first detective was therefore his Charles Auguste Dupin. This fine sleuth is, among others, the ancestor of Chesterton's Father Brown and Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes.
A good detective novel is like a play. And in the detective theater category, nothing will match Oedipus the King and Hamlet. Much later, spectators were on the lookout for bloody affairs. The Grand-Guignol, at the beginning of the 20th century, occupied their evenings. During these shows, eyes were gouged out, victims were cut into pieces and naked women were tortured on stage. For fakes, obviously; but this is no longer done, we are told, as a matter of decency.
The first great success of detective theater was, without doubt, The Mousetrap. This play was not only, in the 1950s, Agatha Christie's greatest success, but a play which broke historical attendance records. Jorge Luis Borges, the Argentine Homer, a great fan of labyrinths, liked to restore its true value to the detective genre, too frequently considered minor: “I would say, to defend the detective novel, that it does not need defense; read with a certain contempt today, it saves order in an era of disorder.” And, arsenic on the cake, the spectator has the stimulating impression of participating in the investigation, of being the accomplice of the detective or the criminal. The proof with four pieces currently on display.
Also read: When crime fiction enters the stage
By Nathalie Simon
It is 2019, in Anchorage, Alaska, at the foot of Mount McKinley, also called Denali. But here, Denali (Lucie Brunet) is a lost and gullible 19-year-old young woman who raises her baby alone, as best she can, and works in a fast-food restaurant. In shapeless shorts and sweatshirts, she spends her free time with her friends, “Cece” Cynthia (Lou Guyot), and Kayden (Jeremy Lewin), talking about celebrities, and on Snapchat. Denali ends up falling in love online with a certain “handsome and rich” Tyler. Under his influence, she will do the worst.
On a set split in two by the astute Juliette Desproges, the interrogations are carried out on the garden side by detectives Jessica Hais (Lou Guyot) and Lenny Torres (Guillaume Ravoire). Starting with Denali. “I’m telling you the truth!”, she repeats. Court side, the facts with flashbacks. An unhealthy game between the three friends will be followed by a murder, but shush! The author Nicolas Le Bricquir, 31, warns that the affair is real, but that his proposal is artistic and not documentary. He must have seen 24 Hours or La Casa de Papel, mentioned by one of the characters.
He has fun live with the codes of the genre, American music included. The play is designed as a thriller in which we can't wait to discover the next episode. On a screen, the credits scroll and we read “Skip the introduction”. We follow the progress of the investigation, hour by hour with incredible twists and turns. Denali and her friends are caught in their own trap. Our pulse races, the atmosphere is distressing. Nicolas Le Bricquir, Audience Award in the 2021 Young Directors Competition at Théâtre 13, does not just recount the crime, he questions the behavior of the protagonists. How to escape virtual gurus? Why is society abandoning young people to their fate? The interpretation borders on perfection. As the heroine, Lucie Brunet is extraordinary. Lauriane Mitchell plays several roles including that of her best friend. Created at the Avignon Festival, Denali delighted thrill-seekers.
At Studio Marigny (Paris 8th), until December 31. Such. : 01 86 47 72 77.
BUY YOUR PLACES
By Nathalie Simon
We understand why Hitchcock wanted to adapt Trap for a Single Man for the cinema, a play by Robert Thomas to whom we owe Eight Women. Because mystery reigns supreme in this absurd story until the end. A chalet near Chamonix in 1960 that we have time to admire (a decor by the faithful Citronelle Dufay). Daniel Corban (Michel Fau) sinks into despair. Élisabeth, his wife of three months (Caterina Murino), disappeared around ten days earlier. A good-natured police commissioner (Régis Laspalès) talks about a possible runaway and tries to calm him down. Daniel's wife reappears, but he does not recognize her. Is he going crazy? “One of you needs to be locked up,” warns the investigator.
Sometimes you have to choose: acting or directing. Michel Fau, who we are used to seeing at ease in the second exercise, made a mistake by playing both roles. Jacques Charon, who staged the play in 1960, did not risk it. Despite the help of an assistant (Quentin Amiot), the actor limply directs his troupe in this “psychotic thriller” which he wanted to be absurd, but very funny. The drawling tone of Régis Laspalès and the beauty of Caterina Murino struggle to hold attention. Michel Fau himself does not seem convinced under the trapped husband's dressing gown. The other actors are entangled in their characters: priest, nurse… They leave you indifferent.
Amazing twists and turns
The show should, however, be as effective as an episode of The Last Five Minutes where the director uses the device and the music. “Damn, but that’s for sure!”, would have said Commissioner Bourrel (Raymond Souplex). The public should be impatient to find out the ending. This is not the case. There are some surprising revelations and twists, but the “trap” doesn’t work. The pace drags and boredom lurks. Michel Fau has accustomed us to better.
At the Théâtre de La Michodière (Paris 2nd), until December 31. Such. : 01 47 42 95 22.
BUY YOUR PLACES
By Anthony Palou
It’s cardboard theater. Do not take this expression in its pejorative form, on the contrary. This bias is a fantastic idea on the part of Delphine Piard who is responsible for the adaptation and staging of this Arsène Lupine who returns to the Lucernaire after having enjoyed great success last year. Arsène Lupine, born in the brain of Maurice Leblanc, is perhaps the most famous French trickster in the world. It must be said that he has no shortage of assets in his game: charming, classy but above all a genius magician and gentleman burglar.
From the start, we see our shadow puppet Lupine stealing objects from female and male silhouettes. With a movement of his cape, he vanishes and the scenery appears. Here we are transported to 1908 in the living room of the Château des Gournay-Martin. Germaine (Valentine Revel-Mouroz), the daughter of the owner of the house, writes the invitations for her marriage to the Duke of Charmerace. When the latter appears, it is not the duke but the “greatest of thieves”, as Dutronc sang, disguised as a duke. The servant, Sonia (Emma Brazeilles), is obviously Lupin's accomplice as well as this strange Mr. Charolais (Florent Chesné) who has come to buy a used car. A letter is addressed to the squire: “Sir, I draw your attention to the diadem of the Princess de Lamballe. I have the firm intention of appropriating this jewel and will go tomorrow to your Parisian office, where you exhibit it and where you pile up all your works, for a respectful search. Signed Arsène Lupin.
Grégoire Baujat in the role of the burglar spares no energy. Entrances, exits, dramatic twists… there is a comic strip side to this spectacular production. Inspector Ganimard, the excellent Pierre Khorsand, is outrageously stupid. That day, many children at Lucernaire were fascinated by this refined character from popular literature. “There is no age to love Arsène Lupin,” said Frédéric Dard. Lupinitis is contagious.
At Lucernaire (Paris 6th), until January 14. Such. : 01 45 44 57 34.
BUY YOUR PLACES
By Anthony Palou
Sherlock Holmes, in the theater, is an inexhaustible source. These days, Conan Doyle's sleuth flanked by Doctor Watson, his friendly, slightly foolish sidekick, is happily leading the dance in two shows: Sherlock Holmes and the Mystery of the Boscombe Valley ("7th season and more than 400,000 spectators!”, whispers the poster) and The Adventure of the Blue Diamond. These two plays, directed by Christophe Delort, are performed every weekend at the Grand Point-Virgule. As for Julien Lefebvre, who has already directed The Whitechapel Circle and The Travelers of Crime, he also understood that Conan Doyle was a good bait to attract the crowds: Machiavellian intrigues, ambiguous characters, striking lines and the key to the astonishing enigma .
His latest play is no exception to these rules: The Hour of Assassins is a well-oiled mechanism. To write this kind of theater, you have to be a good welder, and Julien Lefebvre is one. We are in London at the beginning of the 20th century, in a lounge on the top floor of a theater, on New Year's Eve. Very beautiful, cozy decor. Beautiful costumes. Bookcase, paintings, fireplace, sofa, etc. Outside, it's snowing. The viewer likes to see the snow fall. The fake flakes warm it up.
On the stage, a closed session of six characters: the singer Miss Belgrave (Stéphanie Bassibey), sister of the victim, Philip Somer, and owner of the premises; the late Somerset’s assistant, Miss Lime (Ninon Lavalou) ; his right arm Hartford (Pierre-Arnaud Juin); Bram Stoker (Jérôme Paquatte), director of the theater and incidentally author of Dracula ; the laugh-free prince playwright Bernard Shaw (Nicolas Saint-Georges) and, “last but not least”, the famous Conan Doyle (Ludovic Laroche), who will lead the investigation in a kilt. Let us note in passing that Shaw and Doyle cordially hate each other, which earns us some elegant passes of arms. Both are professionals in speckled foil.
Big Ben punctuates the plot and will ring the hour of crime. The champagne and petit fours don't look very clear. A strange inscription appears on a window: “NOSIOO”. Which, in reverse, if we add a small line under the first “O”, could mean “POISON”. The characters will all be suspected one after the other. A story of arsenic? Eh eh! Revenge? Ah, ah! A story of inheritance? You burn, you burn. In a good detective comedy, the facts have a logic, that imposed by the culprit. It is hidden here until the final reversal. Definitely surprising.
At Lucernaire (Paris 6th), until January 21. Such. : 01 45 44 57 34. www.lucernaire.fr