Los Angeles Theater Preview: STATE OF SIEGE (Théâtre de la Ville at Royce Hall)

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by Tony Frankel on October 3, 2017

in Theater-Los Angeles,Tours


Presented by CAP UCLA, Paris’s Théâtre de la Ville returns to Royce Hall with a new production of Albert Camus’ harrowing political allegory, State of Siege, on Thursday October 26 and Friday October 27, 2017. This incredible company premiered the astounding production of Ionesco’s Rhinoceros in 2012 and it remains one of the highlights of my theatergoing experiences.

Staged by leading avant-garde French director Emmanuel Demarcy-Mota, Camus’ ominous 1948 play follows two bureaucrats—Plague and his loyal secretary, Death—through a hopeless and sinister landscape of political brutality. When a comet appears in the sky over the fortified city of Cádiz, Nada, the nihilistic town drunkard warns that it is an evil omen. The stir among the people is quashed by a government edict forbidding them to acknowledge that they have seen a comet, and a chorus parrots, “Nothing is happening, nothing will happen.” Thus begins L’Etat de siège.

Originally staged in 1948 by Jean-Louis Barrault, this rare piece was restaged by Théâtre de la Ville last March in Paris, and is currently touring with its 13-member ensemble. Demarcy-Mota has described State of Siege as “a distorted mirror of a nightmarish future in which a city is reduced to silence and submission to authority.” The tyrannical authority in this case is Plague (La Peste), who brings order, administration, lists, records, statistics and persecution—until a young man, Diego, organizes a revolt.

In Théâtre de la Ville’s production, performed in French with English supertitles, the director calls our attention to the survivors within the occupied city, and their struggle to grasp the freedom that is denied them. The work is both a cry for political awakening and a call to arms, asking us to reflect on our responsibility as witnesses to history, and the necessity of resistance in the face of authoritarianism.

“As Albert Camus recently showed it to us in The State of Siege,” Demarcy-Mota wrote, “it would be so much better to approach changing times with hope; with momentum; with heart instead of fear; with even a bit more joy.”

Camus, whose references were often in the Spanish theater of the Golden Age (he translated some of Calderón’s plays) wrote: “My proclaimed purpose was to strip theater of psychological speculation and loudly echo on our whispering stages today’s great protests that weigh on or put the masses on the move.”

photos by Jean-Louis Fernandez
and Christophe Dessaigne

State of Siege (L’Etat de siège)
presented by CAP UCLA
Royce Hall at UCLA
Thursday, October 26, 2017 at 8
Friday October 27, 2017 at 8
for tickets, call 310-825-2101 or visit CAP UCLA

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