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Jean Robert-Charrier: "The private theater must urgently renew itself"

Last year, at the same time, we could see for three months Cinderella, the cult show of Joël Pommerat, on a stage of the private theater, that of the Theater of Porte-Saint-Martin. This year, Jean Robert-Charrier, its innovative director, chose to program until mid-July That'll be (1), late Louis, always Pommerat, which restores the present and the urgency of the public debates during the French Revolution. The show, created in autumn 2015 at the Manège de Mons, Belgium, has shot in France on subsidized scenes.

Nothing more normal that a private theater takes again an important spectacle which ricochets with the current events? Yes and no. Jean Robert-Charrier's initiative is completely new. Never had a spectacle of this duration – four and a half hours – been exploited on a stage that belongs to a private owner, Marc Ladreit de Lacharrière. Moreover, the aesthetic biases of It'll be fine… – gray contemporary costumes, black decorations, lack of headliners – contrast with the supposed recipes for success. It can not be said that Jean Robert-Charrier has no pen to lose and is satisfied with the fruits of the successes of the subsidized theater. For his part, Joel Pommerat is also suspicious. Is he right to play on a private stage when his company Louis Brouillard is entirely financed by public funds? The director demonstrates the futility of the argument. No public theater in Paris offered to resume It'll be fine"So there was no competition between public and private scenes. The only question that is worth is our requirements. Have they fallen? I asked Jean Robert-Charrier to invalidate places where spectators would have seen nothing, to reduce the weekly frequency of performances, and of a Line the price of seats at the price of Parisian subsidized theaters. " So many imperatives that significantly reduce the recipe for an evening, and have been granted. How to live? Meeting with the young director at the head of the Theater Porte Saint Martin for ten years already, where he lives in an apartment above the stage.

What are the risks for you?

I'm afraid ! This is the first time that we show a show that we know that, whatever happens, we will be in deficit of one or two hundreds of thousands of euros. The other shows must therefore bail out what will be lost with It'll be fine … each line of the budget is scrutinized. The show upsets the work of everyone to that of the openers and opener, who have six or seven hours of presence per day instead of the usual hour and a half.

How do public theater professionals react?

At the resumption of Cinderella, they were very suspicious of an approach they considered opportunistic. A year later, I perceive a difference. Public theaters are willing to help us by communicating this recovery. Another change: I receive many proposals to resume shows produced by subsidized scenes. But I'm only looking for one a year, and it's not easy.

Why program It'll be fine … if it's a financial pitfall?

For the sake of the play, and because it is likely to catch everyone, including people who never come to the theater. It's even better here, in a multi-storey Italian theater with gilding that recreates the National Assembly. I have seen it three times and each time, spectators have asked me why Pommerat had re-written it in yellow vests. But no ! Not a word has changed since its release.

You choose to program It'll be fine … for four months.

I refuse to schedule covers for twenty or thirty dates. It would be nice on the poster, but without interest. Because that would not allow a turnaround of the spectators with regard to a proposition that they do not identify. One would reproduce what takes place in public theaters where the same savvy people praise in advance. For forty years, the private theater has focused on the starification of actors, its rooms are empty, and its public is aging. It is urgent to renew oneself. We can no longer sell seats 75 euros for a piece of average boulevard in front of a public who sleeps. And public theater stumbles on the issue of broadcasting. There are an impressive number of shows that are never taken back. What delights me is that the more we have a programming that I think is demanding, the more we rejuvenate the audience. At the beginning of the next school year, Zabou Breitman will go up the lady from Maxim's of Feydeau, with three sets and about twenty actors. I really hope to succeed in filling a room, without gigantic headliners.

It is said that you want to break down the barrier between public and private theater …

I think on the contrary that this border is healthy. We do not have the same mission. We can not afford to produce experimental shows. When the Ministry of Culture talks about establishing a charter so that there are mandatory revisions in the private sector and vice versa, I do not believe it for a second. It can only be a matter of meeting, case by case. Moreover, many directors of the private theater do not go to see subsidized shows, they have no idea what it is.

When you took the lead of the theater, did you have a varied theatrical culture?

Not at all ! I was a pure spectator of the private, admirer of the great actors, Michel Bouquet, Claude Brasseur. I was shocked when I discovered Laurent Terzieff on a private stage. Overnight, I dropped out of law school and entered the Porte Saint-Martin Theater as an opener. A week later, I wrote a letter to announce that I had the ambition to direct this theater. My naïveté played in my favor, the administrator took me under his wing. Then it was Catherine Hiegel who stirred me, explaining that I could not be in this place by ignoring everything of the staging. My evolution slightly precedes that of the public of the theater that I direct.

You take the reins of the festival of Anjou in 2020. Do you have other objectives?

I am actively looking for an additional room with 600 seats to program contemporary authors. And yes, I hope I'm never an old director of the Théâtre de la Porte-Saint-Martin …

Anne Diatkine

It'll be (1), late Louis of Joel Pommerat Theater of Porte-Saint-Martin, 75010.

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