When Macha Méril first appears on the little stage of the Théâtre de Poche-Montparnasse (literally “pocket theatre”) barefoot in her flamboyant long red dress, one can be struck by the resemblances with the famous 20th-century French writer and experimental filmmaker, Marguerite Duras (1914-1996).
The mise en scène is clever, with each extract of a text written by Marguerite Duras recited by Méril comes a different seating, a different posture and specific lighting, going back and forth between texts while maintaining a certain clarity.
As an accurate depiction of the author’s life and work, death is a recurrent theme and is always accompanied by a new shade of black. The selection of the different texts is rather ingenious. The most prominent text is the recollection of the author’s thirty-two years after the death of her first and last child at birth. Like Laure Alder writes in her introduction to La beauté des nuits du monde, not being able to see her dead child in the hospital was a particularly difficult moment for her that has marked both her life and work tremendously.
Méril sways in the dark to reappear in a different position, beautifully lit up as always. This time, she is sharing her leek soup recipe illustrating the diversity of her art.
Regrettably, the performance is rather weak and uninspiring. It failed to bring to life the formidable content of the spoken lines drawn from the character’s writings. Moreover, the accompanying music hindered the exploration of the context of the lines and it rather distracted from the text instead of helping it being explored. As an aficionado of the life and work of Duras, I find the play undermining the views and ideas held by this thought-provoking accomplished woman who excelled as a novelist, playwright, screenwriter, essayist, and experimental filmmaker.
The cuts to the character’s lines seemed arbitrary and failed to serve the narrative and the fluidity of the play.
The final scene presents the real character, Marguerite Duras, via a video interview that she gave years earlier. In that interview, Duras predicts or contemplates, rather accurately, life in 2020, foreseeing the outbreak of information and the downfall of communication. The interview has been all-around social media since January, is rather very well-known and therefore adds nothing to what is already in the public domain. This performance felt more like a missed opportunity.