At the Casarès house, on the edge of emotions

Alloue (Charente)

From our special correspondent

As long as the clouds hide the last quarters of the moon, the night in Alloue is a thick coat that covers everything and blurs the landmarks. At the edge of the village, a few lights persist in the darkness: colored candles planted in the tall lime trees of the Domaine de la Vergne. In the shade of the trees, snatches of conversation slip through the greedily emptied plates. We comment on the smoothness of ratatouille by exchanging the last impressions of a day nourished by an infinite range of emotions.

So goes summer at Maison Maria-Casarès where, for four weeks, the festival combines gastronomy and theater in a regenerating conviviality. Johanna Silberstein and Matthieu Roy, co-directors of the house stamped as cultural meeting center, have thus designed this summer event with multiple assets, combining the charm of outdoor shows and the magic of a place still inhabited by the presence of its illustrious owner, who died in 1996. Maria Casarès, who had given up film sets to devote herself to the theater and to the constantly renewed encounter with the public, would undoubtedly not have denied this festival with a strong human dimension.

Three shows, provided by a common distribution in a joyful troop spirit, punctuate the day. The festivities open with Come on, Ollie… in the water! a text by Briton Mike Kenny, directed by Odile Grosset-Grange, who shares the stage here with Anthony Jeanne. They encompass an explosive duo between Oliver, who is afraid of water, and his great-grandmother, swimming champion at the Olympic Games in London in… 1948.

“I have not always been old”, recalls this one, not supporting any more to be, because of his age, treated “Like the village idiot”. In a precise and light staging – we enjoy swimming scenes, real aerial choreographies – this tender tandem draws up, against the background of universal themes of fear and self-confidence, a beautiful ode to intergenerational relations.

Change of register at aperitif time, at the back of the house, with CRASH, an original project set up by director Sophie Lewisch, who was one of the “young shoots” in residence at Maison Maria-Casarès in 2019. This inventive piece traces the Tarnac affair (a group of accused young people terrorism) from the trial that closed it in 2018.

In a court of odds and ends, the actors juggle with the costumes as with the multiple characters they play. With its biting humor, its improbable stunts, this breathtaking creation achieves an alloy between laughter and committed reflection.

Perilous but successful, like Martyr, last piece on the program, on the same crest line between comedy and the seriousness of its subject. The text, written in 2011 by the German Marius von Mayenburg, tactfully tackles the subject of religious extremism. It tells of the radicalization of a high school student who, a Bible in his hand, condemns his divorced mother, refuses to go to the swimming pool and to follow the teachings of his biology teacher.

With the latter, become his pet peeve, the clashes multiply in a freezing escalation. A story with premonitory accents if we think of the assassination of Samuel Paty in 2020, which decided Johanna Silberstein, in the role of the teacher, and Matthieu Roy, in the staging, to take up this play they had risen in 2013.

The torments of the world invite themselves in the haven of tranquility of Alloue, where art and poetry also offer interludes of delicate feelings. A sound walk takes visitors to the meadow or to the water’s edge, to the sound of excerpts from the correspondence between Maria Casarès and Albert Camus. Another route leads them into the home, invested in this particular year by the plastic artist Joël Andrianomearisoa.

In the fall, the building will undergo the first work of a renovation that has become urgent. Washed out by the infiltrations, the suns that lined the actress’s room will disappear for good. “We say goodbye to the house as Maria Casarès left it when she died, comments Johanna Silberstein. But a new page in the history of this place will be written. “


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