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La Manufacture - Château de Saint Chamand (Festival d'Avignon)

Seasonal Affective Disorder
Le Festival d'Avignon
2.0Reviewer's Rating

When I first read about Seasonal Affective Disorder and its Bonnie and Clyde-esque story, I was curious to see how this tale of lovers on the run was going to be staged. I was somewhat taken aback, then, when I entered the small theatre and saw that the stage was bare but for a square screen placed in the middle.

The plot of Lola Molina’s story is quite simple – Vlad, a middle-aged man, meets 14-year-old Dolly in a bar and decides to help her run away from a murder case. They inevitably fall in love with one and other as they do anything to evade capture.

Lélio Plotton’s mise en scene leaves everything suggested and unseen – all the play’s content is in the dialogue, and the costume and acting match the simplicity of the set. Vlad tells Dolly about her ‘white dress’ as we see her wearing a grey hoodie with a pair of jeans. These directorial choices seemingly have the intention of making the audience dream along with the characters, but unfortunately it only creates a gap between them.

The aforementioned screen is a peculiar element, as there is no interaction between the actors and the images it shows. According to the director it is supposed to represent the car’s rear view mirror, but it seems completely disconnected from the play.

The show’s poor scenography could have been saved by the actors, but alas, no. Anne-Lise Heimburger fails to embody Dolly, overacting the stereotypical character of the teenage girl where more subtlety would make the character more complex and endearing. Laurent Sauvage, who plays Vlad, has a magnetic voice but does not exploit it. He is always monotone, and keeps the same one-hand-in-his-pocket posture throughout the show, rendering Vlad an emotionless robot. There does not seem to be a lot of chemistry between the couple, but the show’s soundtrack goes a long way to galvanising their performance. Heimburger’s dancing provided the energy that is missing from the rest of the play, while Sauvage’s voice marries perfectly with the soft electronic beats.

Most disappointingly, the play does a poor job of representing the relationship between Dolly and Vlad. For a show that aims to be transgressive, it is extremely strange to see such a conformist image of gender roles – the calm and older man protects the hysterical young girl, who immediately wants to raise children with him. It is so stereotypical that it could be funny, but I guess that is not the director’s intention.

Summary in French:

Avant d’aller voir Seasonal Affective Disorder, on peut penser qu’il s’agit d’une pièce sur deux amants en fuite, au caractère quelque peu subversif. L’absence quasi totale de mise en scène et le jeu exagéré et peu convaincant des acteurs peine à faire de cette pièce course-poursuite une aventure trépidante. On regrette aussi la représentation si peu évoluée de la relation entre cet homme et cette femme qui ne fait que se conformer à des codes genrés qui sont extrêmement datés.

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