“Lost Illusions”: in the theater, the shattered dreams of Lucien de Rubempré

Cornerstone of The Human Comedy, Lost illusions, that Balzac called “Monster volume”, is at the top of the bill at the start of autumn. On the cinema side with the release of Xavier Giannoli’s film, on the theater side with the superb adaptation by Pauline Bayle – just appointed director of the Nouveau Théâtre de Montreuil – who continues her literary adventure around the great founding texts (1).

→ CRITICAL. “Lost illusions”, splendor and misery by Lucien de Rubempré

The creator of the company À tire-d’aile has narrowed the work of 700 pages around the character of Lucien de Rubempré, a young idealist poet “mounted” from his native Angoulême in Paris to try his luck, erasing a number of descriptions for better highlight the incisive and so modern dialogues of Balzac. And its setting, daring, dazzles: on a square stage, five actors share 20 roles, with the exception of the impressive Jenna Thiem, with wild hair, who will play Lucien de Rubempré – “Beautiful as a woman” – from start to finish.

Masterful game

Around this theatrical arena, the spectators, seated on all four sides, closely observe the masterful play of these young actors – Charlotte Van Bervesselès, Hélène Chevallier, Guillaume Compiano, and Alex Fondja – who will never leave the stage, transforming themselves as the plot progresses, putting on a jacket to play the editor of a newspaper, swapping a moccasin for a high-heeled shoe for a social evening, tying a scarf in anticipation of an appointment with a publisher …

On this stripped-down stage, the Paris of the Restoration magically emerges, which grabs, astonishes, delights and debases Lucien, the world of press rooms where a good criticism is negotiated, as the opportune friendships with men are formed and unwound. political, the setting of a theater where Coralie performs who, coiled up in a red dress, panics the young ambitious …

Touching even in his hesitations, his contradictions, his even betrayals, Lucien sinks into this pitiless Parisian society dominated by money and power. Forced to become a journalist to survive – “The punishment of writers” -, he will however have clung to his dream of becoming the illustrious poet that all of Paris was waiting for. In a moving scene, we see him declaim with all the ardor of his youth, still confident in his talent, one of his sonnets facing Doria. Spinning like a butterfly, the verb clear, the tone exalted, he still hopes to convince the bookseller to publish his poetry …


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