By Claire Angenot


The creative team behind DOM JUAN OR THE FEAST WITH THE STATUE share diary entries about their new show.

For us, actors in training, this opportunity to take part in the making of a professional production in a Centre Dramatique National links life at the school with life at the Théâtre. Académie de l’Union is one of several theatre schools connected to a theatre. This means that, throughout our training, we work alongside different trades connected to this professional environment. While still in training, we also have opportunities to perform or show work to the Théâtre’s audience. But these opportunities are punctual, firstly because the school is about 20km away from the theatre, out of the city centre. As students, we are used to being in two different locations, each with their own ways of working: one is a school, the other one, a Centre Dramatique. With all of us involved as actors in the creative process of The Feast with the Statue, we are suddenly dealing with the theatre in a different way. We are no longer just trainees, learning through a pedagogical approach of discovery. We are now also performers who offer suggestions, we are part of the creative process. This means there are different demands on us: we have to be individually and collectively committed and conscientious. But we are also joyful and enthusiastic to play powerful parts, surrounded by a majestic set, collaborating with experienced artists. Few students are given such an opportunity at the end of their training. We are aware that this is a powerful boost to our career. This adventure also means we are able to connect an ethical view of theatre with a specific artistic form. Having been a part of this artistic process since our first year at the school has established a sense of solidarity. Because the parts are, by necessity, studied collectively, this means no one works on their own. Theatre as an art form encourages a collective spirit: Molière himself was working in a troupe. Here, this collective dimension influences the way we work on our parts: several of us sketch the characteristics of a same character. In this way, the show’s format underpins an ethics of co-existing and cooperation. 


Because what is at stake is a professional production, our relationship to one another is different. We are a cohort of fifteen students, each with very different personalities. But we share the four parts of Donna Elvira, Charlotte, The Beggar and the Father, alternating for each performance. This means that, for instance, when one of us is on stage in rehearsal, working on her performance of the part, the six other actors who will be playing the same part are in the audience, observing and making notes on the blocking as well as any emotional tipping points in a scene. This is how we create the shared score that each of us will have to follow. Such precision is necessary as it guarantees our relationship with the main characters who don’t change from one performance to another: Sganarelle, Dom Juan and the musicians. Steve Tientcheu, Jean Lambert-wild, Denis Albert, Pascal Rinaldi and Romaine are the foundations of this structure and they allow the mechanism to be so malleable. Unavoidably, they adapt their acting to whichever actor they are performing with. It is this reciprocal adaptability that is difficult: we have to be continually alert and ready to adjust, because nothing on stage is ever fixed. At the same time, we all have to follow the same score, with specific blocking, gestures, entrances and exits, which are what allows us to tell the story. 

This way of working is a bit like weaving: each of us is a little stitch that together create an organised tapestry. Even if we don’t notice each thread at first sight, they are all necessary and they hold the structure together. This is how we worked on Donna Elvira: each one of us adding a stroke. A touch of madness, a raging impulse, a desperate cry… it wasn’t one single actor who suggested these, instead, we added these elements one after the other. The characters of Donna Elvira and Charlotte are drawn up from this brightly-coloured material. 


Dom Juan marries Donna Elvira after taking her out of the convent. At the beginning of the play, Dom Juan is about to leave her. She is a difficult character to play because she goes through many emotions while staying noble and aristocratically elegant. We have had to reconnect with codes that are no longer the norm nowadays, while staying credible in our performance register. Donna Elvira’s emotional palette is varied: she moves from laughter to tears, shame to rage, anger to grief… As actors, we have to go through this journey with Dom Juan while retaining this ‘outraged woman’’s feelings. The relationship between Dom Juan and Sganarelle here is precious because it supports the truthfulness of this situation. Charlotte, on the other hand, is a curious young woman who doesn’t know Dom Juan. The tipping point happens during the play. This peasant woman is torn between the fact that she is seduced by him and that she has been warned against men. Each Charlotte is different, but each follows a specific score. The challenge this time was to avoid turning her into a clown-like caricature. We tried several things: we made her dirty, crude, stupid, gave her an accent… But as soon as these elements are the main way the character is composed, she becomes the caricature of a peasant without any depth. Here, again, we have had to collectively find a balance: between ourselves as the actors who share the part, and with the other protagonists. Even though each part is created collectively, each remains unique in performance. Each one of us plays oneDonna Elvira, and oneCharlotte, each in our own way. We get great pleasure from this in performance: the parts were collectively created, but once on stage, each actor is individually responsible for giving depth to the character. 


Carnet de bord #6 > Dom Juan ou Le Festin de pierre > Antonin Dufeutrelle, comédien de la Séquence 9 de L'Académie de l'Union


Having read the plethora of different literary, theatrical and whimsical versions of the myth of Dom Juan, Jean Lambert...