Almost 10 years after having placed George Feydeau at the heart of the show Le prince des jouisseurs, Gabriel Sabourin does it again with Pif-Luisant, a piece articulated around life, but above all around the masterpiece of Edmond Rostand.
How could a man whose plays had hitherto been lukewarm give birth to Cyrano de Bergerac, one of the greatest masterpieces of French drama? What happened in the life of Edmond Rostand that at the age of 29 such genius sprang up? Where did he find the material to inspire him?
These questions are at the heart of Pif-Luisant, a new play that Gabriel Sabourin devotes to the father of Cyrano de Bergerac and presented at the Rideau Vert. “I looked back to the year leading up to the writing of this masterpiece to imagine what might have happened in the author’s life. For me, it was clear: to write such beautiful love letters as those found in Cyrano de Bergerac, Edmond Rostand had to love too. »
It is a true anecdote that sowed the seed of inspiration in the head of the Quebec actor, playwright and screenwriter.
Gabriel Sabourin therefore decided to dig into this vein to write his play. Rostand would have liked without being in return. “Is it a sacrilege to imagine that all this could have happened, to imagine how this story of letters could have served as an inspiration for Cyrano de Bergerac? We know that de Bergerac really existed – he died in 1655 – but the Roxane in the play is a fictional character. So I imagined a Marie-Anne who would be Edmond’s secret love. »
“Besides, I found out that Rostand was called ‘shiny pif’ at school,” the actor said. He must not have considered himself handsome. Like his Cyrano!
To embody Edmond Rostand, director Stéphane Brulotte turned to Olivier Morin. Roger La Rue plays Father Rostand, Marie-Hélène Thibault, the servant Madame LeGuet, and Gabriel Sabourin, her husband. Élodie Grenier and Jean-François Pronovost complete the cast.
In addition to embroidering around the life of Edmond Rostand, Gabriel Sabourin decided to include in his play some pieces of the most famous play by the French playwright.
“I played the Comte de Guiche in the production presented at the TNM in 2014 and I realized that I had to add pieces of Cyrano de Bergerac to my piece. There’s so much genius in there. In fact, at the premiere of the play in 1897, there was a standing ovation for an hour – an hour! – at the end of the performance. The success was instantaneous; Rostand even received the Legion of Honor! »
Only, this genius poses a hell of a challenge to Gabriel Sabourin: that of writing words that will not pale alongside those taken from Cyrano. Because his Edmond sows the alexandrine and the rhyme to the wind, to the point of getting on the nerves of those around him. “It’s not that simple for me, as I don’t necessarily have an easy time with the music of the Alexandrians. »
But what is it that encourages Gabriel Sabourin to revisit the lives of great playwrights in this way?
Regarding the position that the classics occupy on our boards today, Gabriel Sabourin believes that these plays are “the best of hundreds of years of world theater”. “Shakespeare or Molière knew how to find the balance to make their work universal. Few authors have succeeded. We must therefore continue to play it, without playing just that. With Michel Tremblay, Michel Marc Bouchard, Marie Laberge or Carole Fréchette, we are in the process of building our own accelerated dramaturgy. It’s primordial. But we must not forget those who have stood the test of time. »
He continues: “It’s fun as Quebecers to be able to appropriate French authors without having any complexes. I dared to attack this monster that is Cyrano and I went there with all my passion. »