Olivier Py shed a tear when he came to greet the actors at the end of the premiere of his play My exalted youth, Friday, July 8. For him, it was a particularly moving evening: a farewell to the festival he has been directing since 2013, and a salute to his debut in Avignon, where he signed a brilliant coup, in 1995, with The servant. Olivier Py was 29 years old, he lived without an address, went from one place to another without parting with the skull that served his father during his dental studies. He had a crazy project that he implemented: to present a play on a loop for seven days in a row to celebrate the servant, this solitary lamp which remains lit on the set when the theaters are empty.
He practices theater with the unalterable joy of a craftsman in love with his tools.
The starting point of the story was in two sentences: a young woman, Marthe, asked her four closest friends to leave to transmit to the world a word that an angel had whispered to her. For four years, Marthe waited for them… There were twenty-six of them, plus the dog Flipotte, playing this Servant composed of four main parts, set in dramaticules. The hours went by, the spectators went in and out, or fell asleep, but it didn’t matter: when they returned or when they woke up, they found the intact momentum of an author and a troupe who summoned the Gospel. , Molière, Shakespeare or Homer, and the insolent desire for a youth that seemed eternal.
Twenty-seven years later, Olivier Py comes full circle. He returns to the gymnasium of the Lycée Aubanel but, in a way, he is wiser: only ten hours of performance (including two intermissions), from 2 p.m. to midnight, for My exalted youth. At 56, the director of the festival looks back on his theatrical youth by questioning the young people of today through the figure of Harlequin. His Harlequin is a pizza delivery man. Every day, he brings one to a forgotten poet, who immediately throws it away. So much for the starting point of the tetralogy of My youth exalted. Four plays where we will see Harlequin struggling with art, love, politics, religion, betrayal, hell and redemption.
A definitive confidence
We will not take the risk of summarizing them: we would lose the reader. It is enough to know that, in his journey, this Harlequin will come across a gallery of characters – a crooked cardinal and a defrocked sister, a minister of culture and his adviser, each as ambitious and useless as the other, a tragic actress on the return, a cynical businessman who became President of the Republic, and four young people – well, as in The servant – who dream of theater and will end up doing something else. And then there is Alcandre, the forgotten poet, whose love for Harlequin sounds like the apogee and the death knell of existence.
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