© Christophe Raynaud de Lage

La Brèche (The MacAlpine Spillway)
Le Festival d’Avignon

Reviewer's Rating

Tommy Milliot, the young French director and founder of the Man Haast company, is particularly interested in directing plays by contemporary authors. La Brèche (The MacAlpine Spillway), which he presented this year in Avignon, was written by American author Naomi Wallace in 2015, and is set in “a possible Kentucky” in both 1977 and 1991.

The set is very simple, yet brutal: on the stage, there is a large concrete slab and nothing else, apart from the actors and a basketball. Milliot relies entirely on the actors and is not interested in anything superfluous in order to tell Naomi Wallace’s story. Jude, older sister of Acton, becomes friends with Hoke and Frayne when the two privileged boys decide to protect her sickly brother in school. They meet in the basement of Jude and Acton’s modest house, discovering their sexualities together. Fifteen years later, Jude, Hoke, and Frayne meet again in that same basement after Acton’s funeral, bringing up dark secrets from their teenage years.

The pace of the play is rather rapid, as we go back and forth in time between the late seventies and the early nineties. The time-travels are made visible by blackouts, and most of all by the double casting (seven actors for four characters), which is enough to stimulate the spectator’s imagination. All the attention is focused on the text: the words are brutal, cruel, and still realistic. Wallace describes the horrors that teenagers can do, with an underlying social criticism of the pharmaceutical industry and the people who take advantage of it.

The cast’s raw energy makes the text extremely striking at moments, but seems weaker at some crucial points, which make the whole play a bit frustrating. The actor who stands out the most is the one who plays the most controversial and foulest character: the 30 year-old Hoke, played by Matthias Hejnar. He makes a great haughty upper-class man who, in the play, does not want to accept his mistakes and prefers blaming his victim. The two actresses who play Jude (Lena Garrel and Aude Rouanet) are also impressive as a pair and brilliantly embody this strong female character who sacrifices herself in order to protect her brother.

Summary in French:
La Brèche, tragédie adolescente de Naomi Wallace, est portée par le metteur en scène prometteur Tommy Milliot à Avignon avec une grande force mais aussi une grande sobriété. Le décor, simplement constitué d’une grande dalle de béton, synthétise toute la brutalité de la pièce, et les sept acteurs qui foulent cette dalle nous font voyager entre les années soixante-dix et les années quatre-vingt-dix, dans des sombres souvenirs d’adolescence. On en ressort marqué, certain du talent des acteurs et du metteur en scène, mais quelque peu frustré, sentant que l’expérience aurait pu être plus intense.