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théâtre national de nice

Saison 2018-19

théâtre national de nice

[ Original creation | Production ]

roméo et juliette


with Samuel Charieras, Aliénor De Georges, Kevin Ferdjani, Marjory Gesbert, Cyrille De Gonzalgue, Laurent Grappe, Maïa Jemmett, Issam Kadichi, Jérémy Komboh Alié, Haykel Mashate, Irène Reva, Quentin Richard songs Maïa Jemmett scenography Irina Brook Trainee assistant director Milica Milosavljevic artistic collaborator Tess Tracy lighting Alexandre Toscani sound Guillaume Pomares costumes Magali Castellan, Coline Dalle, Aurore Lane accessories Anne-Laure Chiron, Laure Millet, Virginie Pelsez construction Ateliers du tnn, Pascal Brodin, Jérôme Tacconi, Laurent Rivière production Théâtre National de Nice - CDN Nice Côte d’Azur coproduction Passionnément TNN

What struggle is more tragic and timeless than a conflict between neighbours, clans, peoples or nations? In a world where getting along with each other is a daily preoccupation, how can we re-establish the power of love to transcend misunderstanding and strife?
With her usual fire and ardour, Irina Brook puts a modern reading on Romeo and Juliet that touches us right to the heart. As in Shakespeare’s time, the power of the text and the strength of the actors’ performances are of the essence! A troupe that has come together for the occasion, carries this project, initially created to be played in schools: an explosive blend of Niçois actors and the Eclaireurs of the TNN. Passion is the key word here!

Shakespeare’s quintessential tragedy revived in an intimate, youthful and contemporary production. The text is more powerful than ever in Irina Brook’s sharp and pared-down adaptation.


Interview with Irina Brook

Caroline Audibert interviews Irina Brook

You devised and directed this play 17 years ago and now you’re producing it again. How do you see this new version?

Yes, I did produce this play 17 years ago but it’s a work that I never tire of as a director. There are so many different ways to interpret it that you can never really be totally satisfied! The very first time I devised it, I wanted to go back over it, to take it even further, to rework certain elements of it. Last year I produced it at the Gounot Opera House in Nice. It’s simply a work that you cannot leave alone! For the past three years, the TNN has hosted school productions showing their very own interpretations of Roméo & Juliette. Even their short performances reveal how this piece has a spellbinding and powerful quality that highlights the vitality of the archetypes it contains.
This new version is not so much a classic show as an educational performance. The process behind it is not the same as a touring piece when you are in rehearsals for at least 8 weeks. We are offering a light piece, created by local acting troupes as part of the Shake Nice Festival and even more specifically designed for young audiences who may be discovering Roméo & Juliette for the first time. I really hope that all youngsters on the Riviera will get to see this mythical play. As part of their education and even for those actually performing in conjunction with the TNN, few will get to read the entire play or have the opportunity to see it performed on stage. The only way they will get to see it is on the big screen…whereas it seems important to me that they can also see the real play performed on stage in a theatre.

As director, what angle have you taken for staging this play?

We’re going to perform on the main stage. The audience will be sitting very close to the actors and all around them. The stage design is quite minimalist. The fundamental concept behind the staging focuses on the imagination of those watching. As with the Globe theatre, I am using as few effects as possible. I’m homing in on the story, the acting, using a few props, some costumes, no scenery…

What are the main pitfalls of the play for a director?

The biggest challenge with Roméo & Juliette is that we laugh a lot during the first half of the play. It’s all very spirited and funny and we’re caught up in a whole succession of brawls and dances. Then, there is a very specific moment when it all tips over into tragedy and right to the very end. During the first part we’re bathed in a lighter mood à la West side story and suddenly, we’re in Medea! The dramatic intensity that follows is worthy of a Greek Tragedy. To be able to negotiate this tragic turn of events that strikes when comedy is in full flow, requires mastering how to conjure up of some very deep emotions on stage (as the story demands), which is not easy for young actors to achieve.

So, do the Eclaireurs troupe and the other young actors rise to the challenge?

Absolutely. Maïa Jemmett, my daughter, who is the same age as Juliette, plays the heroine. The Eclaireurs are going into roles that are different to ones they would normally play: Kévin Ferdjani plays Roméo, Issam Kadichi, Malvolio, Irène Reva is the nurse, Marjorie Gesbert, the hot-headed Tybalt. The other actors come from local companies. This project is most definitely a continuation of the work we have so far undertaken each year involving Nice and Riviera companies, which is part of our remit as a National Centre for Dramatic Arts.
I dreaded coming up against the same issues in terms of emotional power, just as I had the first time I directed this play. But from the very first day of working together, I was totally blown away. These young actors all have a capacity to reach the level of intensity required. I feel that they already have maturity about them and that really helps.
What matters to me more than anything is to unveil the true meaning of the play. It is drama with a universal reach that is all too often reduced to its romantic dimension. Rather like a watermark, the major challenges of our times show through. How to rebuild a society based on violence and hatred? What future can we see for our younger generations? These questions, raised by Shakespeare, are at the very heart of my concerns.

In the French psyche, Roméo & Juliette is first and foremost a love story, a love between two teenagers that is crazy, tragic...

Unfortunately, beyond the love interest, the play exposes other forces that rule and destroy the world: ignorance and hatred. We do not even know why the two families are rivals. This great classic speaks of the eternal feud between a brother and his own brother, neighbours and conflicting religions. Through this unique story, the absurd mechanisms of war are revealed whilst the value of love is affirmed. Deep down, it is a pacifist play that is even more relevant today, a battle pitching love and peace against conflict and hatred. Young lovers appear as martyrs to the cause. We are imbued with a remarkable tale, not an abstract problem that takes away our sensitivity. This is why we are always so moved by Romeo and Juliet. If Shakespeare affirms a faith in love here, it is in the sense that it should transcend conflict, rise above disagreement and differing values and bring people together.

Does this play provide the best introduction to Shakespeare’s works and the theatre, especially for teenagers? There are two true portals into the works of Shakespeare: A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Romeo & Juliet. One is very light and fun, the other deep and powerful.

Does your version rely heavily on translation work, especially as it is played in French?

Shakespeare remains timeless but translations very quickly show their age and they need to be revitalized if we want to merge the author’s genius with our times. The insults flying between the young Capulets and Montaigus must have a contemporary twist and the poetic lines must totally flow in the romantic scenes. Marie-Paule Rameau’s brilliant translation achieves this. The task is even more challenging as the play simply abounds with double meanings! A French audience is sometimes taken aback as they have a very romantic, prudish, Victorian-style view of the play, complete with long, white nightgowns and Romeo at the balcony. But the play packs in an incredible quantity of bawdy jokes that rarely appear in translations of the play. There are more in Roméo & Juliette than in any other of Shakespeare’s works! The lads in the two clans and even the nurse just keep on cracking jokes. We constantly oscillate between the sublime and the gutter with wall-to-wall double meanings.

So, this really is theatre for everyone!

This original translation recreates the very spirit of the Globe – that is, a theatre for everyone. Shakespeare wrote as much for the lords and ladies sitting in their private boxes as for the workers standing as “groundlings” around the stage. This is why his text never rests on a single note but constantly pursues different registers.
I’m going to lighten up this version of the text as for me, it’s a play that should be seen in one go, without an interval….But it’s also a very long play. By adding a lighter touch to it, it will enhance how it can be heard.

You have re-named the Eclaireurs troupe, the « Eclaireurs Shakespeare. » So, are they now ambassadors of the Bard?

The Eclaireurs are specializing more and more in the universe of Shakespeare: they have immersed themselves in the atmosphere of the Globe theatre in London, the Royal Shakespeare theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon…. They’re beginning to have a considerable level of expertise and knowledge. After performing The Tempest last year, they now will have another string to their bow with Roméo & Juliette and their next production will be Twelfth Night (La nuit des rois). Their Shakespearean repertoire is growing! As Ambassador for Shakespeare in France, I think we need to go further in exploring the master’s work.
classic inspiration
Shake Nice ! festival
Main Auditorium estimated running time 1h55 | limited seating from 13 years +
  • april
  • wed 3 8pm
  • sat 6 8pm
  • tue 9 8pm
  • wed 10 8pm
roméo et juliette
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© 2018 Centre Dramatique National Nice Côte d'Azur · Directed by Irina Brook · Promenade des arts 06300 Nice Tél 04 93 13 19 00 · Fax 04 93 13 79 60 · · Legal Notice