Inflammation du verbe vivre is a play written and directed by Canadian-Lebanese artist Wajdi Mouawad, in which he is the only person acting on stage. His character is Wahid, an alter-ego of Mouawad, a desperate director who leaves his family and carrier to go on a journey, in search for meaning and inspiration, after the loss of his dear friend Robert Davreu.
The play takes place in a space of in-between : between Lyon (where we see the play) and Athens (where Mouawad takes us), between a cinema screen and a theater stage, between life and death. Wahid tells his story to an audience of dead people who are not supposed to know the 21st century, his century. If this allows him to make some successful jokes, asking ‘Is Victor Hugo in the audience ?’, it is also a way for Mouawad to present his personal, quite pessimistic point of view on our century.
Driven by Greek mythology and particularly the story of Philoctetes, Wahid takes us on a trip to Greece but rapidly chooses to end his days by abandoning himself into the sea. He finds himself between life and death and discovers that he has some time to make a decision, and that he can come back to life if he wishes. Having no desire to come back to life, he is guided through desertic and desolated places by a melancholic taxi driver who makes him meet different souls (suicided teenagers, a broken chair, a lonely shoe, fallen Gods) who give Wahid incomplete answers and make him more and more hopeless about himself and the 21st century.
The stage play is very clever : Mouawad goes around and through the screen, sometimes next to himself on the big screen, and every move he makes is meaningful. The screen is not only there to show images, it is a real instrument made of hundreds of strings, like a piano or the many pages of a book that the artist owns and explores. But the film itself is also important, as it shows Mouawad’s talent in filmmaking : filmed like an amateur, lo-fi style video, it highlights the artist’s experimental way of filming, using sounds and editing to create something unique and powerful. He does not hesitate to use violent, explicit imagery to immerse the spectator in his dark vision of Hell, and films himself very humbly, with a lot of vulnerability.
The end of his journey and the answer he looks for is what justifies his presence on stage and every spectator’s presence at the TNP that night : it is a simple pen. A pen to write, in order to create and to communicate, because poetry is life-saving and theater is a way to survive in the darkest times. Mouawad, who proves during the whole performance that he is a complete artist and a wonderful storyteller, finishes by dedicating the play to the Greek people, but it seems to be a declaration of love to our human condition and to poetry.
Summary of the review in French :
Inflammation du Verbe Vivre est une oeuvre complète de Wajdi Mouawad, dont il est l’auteur, le metteur en scène et l’acteur. Seul sur scène pendant plus de deux heures de spectacles, Mouawad utilise un écran de cinéma fait de fils tendus pour nous conter son histoire, ou plutôt celle de son alter-ego Wahid. Il passe à travers l’écran, grimpe dans celui-ci, et emmène le spectateur à ses côtés dans une quête spirituelle à travers la Grèce, et dans la frontière entre la vie et la mort. Vision désolée du 21ème siècle soutenue par des grands mythes universels et des images actuelles et apocalyptiques de la Grèce, Inflammation du Verbe Vivre est tout de même une déclaration d’amour fulgurante à la condition humaine et à la poésie salvatrice.