“I am in Avignon like a passing bird”

Strolling through the alleys of the City of the Popes when the sun finally surrendered its arms, towards the hall of the Calvet Museum and there escaped, rising, covered by the beauty of words and caressing the breeze. This is what France Culture offers throughout the Festival d’Avignon. In the bill that night, Didier Sandre, member of the Comédie-Française and the actress Marie-Sophie Ferdane (part of it) gathered to offer us a wonderful discovery: the writer Anne Sibran, also of stage .

A reading with three voices, composed of extracts from two very different books: one of the shamans (A shaman’s childhood, Gallimard editions) and the threatened jungles of Ecuador where he lived part of the year, the other on Cézanne and his search for light and beauty (The world’s first dream, Galliard editions). All linked in his travel diaries. Vibrant and inspired. We met Didier Sandre, a few minutes after loud applause.

Marie-Sophie Ferdane, Anne Sibran and Didier Sandre (SOPHIE JOUVE)

Franceinfo: What motivated you to do this reading of an ultra-talented but still little-known author?
Didier Sander: This is a real discovery, I never knew Anne Sibran and for me the exercise of reading is also a way to put my nose where I don’t go easily, because other readings, other thing to do… meetings with the public of authors who don’t necessarily know, it’s amazing. And it’s also nice to be a smuggler. Especially when it comes to such a working, stylish language. With this type of writing, one should not use fancy diction, be too much about the beauty of words, but be as concrete as possible, not to contradict this beauty but to express it better.

Marie-Sophie Ferdane and Didier Sandre read the author Anne Sibran (SOPHIE JOUVE)

What has Avignon represented in your long career?
It represents a lot of nostalgia. However The DamnedIt’s been 6 years, it’s very fresh in my memory, it’s also clear The Satin Slipper (by Claudel, directed by Antoine Vitez in 1987) widely published on the walls of the city, there are even frescoes of some scenes on the facades. And then before I did The Winter’s Tale by Shakespeare, directed by Jorge Lavelli with Roland Bertin, Anny Duperey… A cast that you can’t get in theaters today, there are only stars in that production. Lots of nostalgia but unfortunately I’m playing tomorrow at the Comédie-Française The Bourgeois Gentlemanso I can’t immerse yet, I’m like a passing bird.

Are you going to the festival as a spectator?
No! In fact, in fact, if you don’t have a specific thing to do in Avignon, I think there are other times to enjoy this absolutely beautiful city, and also other times to see the theater in a more pleasant way. . But if you’re there to do something about it, it’s great.

Is there a unique, enthusiastic audience here?
If you walk in the streets there is a fever of Avignon, a madness for the theater, and at the same time there is not only an audience from Avignon, there are audiences. We feel it’s very different, the public doesn’t come for the same reasons. If you look at the posters along the streets, you will see that everything is there, there is food and drink, it is a kind of theater fair, it has been said for a long time.

Are you afraid of it?
Yes, a little but at the same time I feel guilty about it because I also know that I am a spoiled actor, and that all these posters hanging on strings in the streets show the same love of theater, you have to start at the end. The theater, you have to experience it, live it, there is a lot of risk taking the truth of coming to present your work, your desire to do something other than what life has set them to do. There is a lot of courage, there is a lot of disappointment, and also wonderful surprises.

The Comédie-Française is celebrating Molière’s 400th birthday this year with a dedicated program, did you enjoy being a part of it?
As always with Molière, for me it is ambiguous. This year Molière is both a programming and distribution constraint, an obligation to play Molière because we are in Molière’s house and I want not to feel like La Fontaine’s fable The wolf and the dog, the neck flange. And as always with Molière, the surprises are happy. I don’t want to play with Géronte Scapin’s tricks because it is a game that bores me more and more to read, and when we start playing it we forget everything, we play, it plays. Here we see that Molière is really a man of the theater, an actor, the roles are written for the rhythm, the breathing, the voice of the actors. Molière grabs you by the hair, he pulls you, he sucks you, we are not without judgment.

And play Molière in front of an enthusiastic audience?
This year is special because it’s the first year after Covid where we really see the public. As Eric Ruf (the French administrator) said, if it had not been Molière’s year, would the Richelieu room have been so full? We are spoiled for this anniversary and the beautiful attendance when many other rooms are suffering from these two years of Covid and restrictions.

Happy with the Comédie-Française?
Yes, basically yes! But I can’t say that every day is easy. I think all troupe actors will tell you the same thing. First because we have a lot of questions then there are 60 actors but there are still 400 people in this house which brings together all the theater professions, the actors are in a minority in a way. But it is an amazing tool. I was offered to go there three times, I felt that I was not ready, I felt that it was not a home for me. The 4th time that Muriel Mayette offered it to me, I said to myself: no 5th, you have to think hard! I thought about it, I listened to the opinion of some people and I said yes. Me, 8 years later, very happy!


Voice of the authors with French Culture and the SACD: Anne Sibran
France Culture Fictions as part of the Festival d’Avignon 2022

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