The adventure of the Théâtre des Amandiers school in Nanterre

He staged both Chekov, with Platonov, “La rue de Lourcine” by Labiche and contemporary plays by Bernard-Marie Koltès.

Imagine that at the age of 16, I saw the first show of Chéreau. I don’t know how my steps had carried me, alone like a grown-up, towards the little room of the Trois Baudets. And I remember this “Affaire de la rue de Lourcine” like fifteen or twenty years later years later the plays of Nanterre. I keep overall impressions but also the memory of the details. It is true that, for Chéreau, nothing was a detail. The seven pieces by Koltès particularly marked me. One of them, “Quai Ouest” failed. The manager of Les Amandiers was not discouraged. He decided to immediately mount another, “In the solitude of the cotton fields”, reusing the same decor. Chéreau, whether he lost or won, always doubled the bet.

The school the film portrays was also risk-based.

Its creation had preceded the opening of the theatre. It was directed by Pierre Romans, played in the film by Micha Lescot. Its two founding fathers fearing nothing so much as institutionalization, they had conceived it as a workshop. She had only two promotions. Valéria Bruni-Tedeschi was in the first with Agnès Jaoui, Vincent Perez, Eva Ionesco, Thibault de Montalembert but we should mention all the others. The number of candidates had been phenomenal: Nanterre had immediately appeared as one of the capitals of European theatre. Once integrated, the selected ones then continued to be put in imbalance. Chéreau did not teach at school, leaving this task to Pierre Romans, the best pedagogue. At the time, he was making “The Wounded Man” and if he recommended anything to the students, it was to dig the wound.

The school was so integrated into the theater that for Platonov, Chéreau chose its distribution among the students. The film is largely centered on the rehearsals before the creation in Avignon. The least we can say is that they were physical. The actors were about the same age as Chekhov when he wrote the play. The intention was not to restore who knows what melancholy Russian atmosphere. All the characters were on the contrary caught up in a great agitation, a Brownian movement. The students of the first promotion gave the disparate image of disunity at the same time as acceleration. Chéreau and Romans were happy. They had broken the esprit de corps that ordinary schools usually aim for.

The film, moreover, draws very different profiles of the two men. Chéreau interpreted by Louis Garrel appears tyrannical, to the point of sometimes becoming involuntarily comical. Romans is more sympathetic, endowed with a great capacity for irony with respect to himself. Chéreau, who was her lover, says to her: “You’re just a weakling”. Romans almost cashes in with a smile. “And you know how weaklings end, history does not remember them.” This film proves the opposite, long after Pierre Romans died of AIDS in 1990.

The school of Almond trees wanted to be exposed to all experiences, permitted or prohibited, a certain toxicity that takes on a particular resonance. Even when an actor dies of an overdose, we play.

AIDS is on the prowl. Heroin circulates. Violent desires. Sofiane Bennacer plays an exceedingly gifted young man who slips at the bottom of his slope while an extraordinary extraordinary ascent awaits him. We are just before Platonov’s premiere and he is no longer there. Chéreau intervenes: “Either we go walking at random with the desire not to come back, or we play.” We find Bennacer’s partner – Nadia Terezkiewics in the film. Trembling behind the scenes, she hesitates to enter the set. Chéreau’s hand, gentle for once, nudges her. She enters the stage with the desire, certainly, that the theater does not resemble real life.

Life has not left the Almond Trees school in peace. With the affair that shakes its release, we are already assured that the film which restores it so well will not know rest either.

The adventure of the Théâtre des Amandiers school in Nanterre