“Léonce et Léna”, like an echo of the modern world

Georg Büchner was only 21 when he wrote “Léonce et Léna”, an ode to adolescent disenchantment against a backdrop of love story and arranged marriage. The Compagnie du Tout-Vivant gave a modern and offbeat version to Ducourneau.

With Thomas Visonneau directing, the actors had already worked on a first version in residence at the theater last year. Adapt this complex piece, between fairy tale, comedy and reflection on the absurdity of the human condition. The final result interpreted by the company is colorful, sonorous, full of inventiveness. The adventures of the characters – the two heroes, the king, Valério, the governess – are punctuated by the flashes and jingles of Radio Fantaisie, the radio of the kingdom of Popo. Songs resonate as the exchanges between the characters. Prince Léonce is propped up on a giant Rubik’s Cube and hangs out on his smartphone, his father the king is dressed in a “King of Popo” T-shirt and the actors write on boards the successive changes of sets and cast. Because the roles are interchangeable. Three successive actors lend their features to Léonce, and Léna’s governess exchanges her jacket with Valério, the valet of the young prince. Even the king changes his face. But no T-shirt or underpants. So as not to make the public lose track, all the characters keep the same clothes. Faux fur jacket and butterfly glasses for the governess, adventurer vest for Valério, black vampire head t-shirt for Léonce… Only Léna is immutable, keeping the red mane of the actress Laure Descamps. When she escapes to find a mysterious young man she met in an inn (she doesn’t yet know that she has just met Léonce), we hear “She’s leaving home” by the Beatles…

Arranged marriage

Léonce and Léna are promised to each other by an arranged marriage. Léonce refuses to fall into line, Léna does not agree with this union imposed on her. Fleeing from their kingdoms, they flee each other to better find each other, crossing paths one night and falling in love while ignoring everything about the other.

In the end, everything goes for the best in the best of all possible worlds, since the two runaway lovers return to the kingdom of Popo, their wedding is celebrated and they discover the true identity of their promised. Impossible however not to see the bitterness of this theatrical tale. Léonce and Léna ask questions about the vanity of the world, question long-established notions. They are disillusioned, a paradox for their age. The characters proclaim it: “who works is a scoundrel!”. The world seems to them dull, deceitful, they don’t feel like they have a place in it. It is reminiscent of the state of mind of a certain youth… This is where the staging strikes hard: it gives dynamism to a play whose issues seemed to us to already resonate in our time. In this messy decor, where nothing seems out of place, we find a bit of our own interior…

“Léonce et Léna”, like an echo of the modern world