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Matinbe chez la Princesse de Guermantes Marcel Proust (Adapted for the stage by Claude Malric) Directed by Michael Londsdale Centre Culturel de Bures sur Yvette (France) Rosette Lamont France's recent effort at decentralization in cultural matters, one of the high priorities of the ministry of Jack Lang, has. created important provincial companies as well as single events presented at the various Maisons de la Culture. Parisians will often travel far and wide to catch one of these events. This past season (Spring of 1984) the most artistically perfect enactment I witnessed (when I say perfect I am comparing it with the work of Giorgio Strehler at the Odbon, Jean-Louis Barrault at his Th&tre du Rond Point, and Roger Planchon at the Villeurbanne T.N.P.) was Michael Lonsdale's production of a collage of texts from Proust's A la recherche du temps perdu , presented under the title, Matinee chez la Princesse de Guermantes. Michael Lonsdale is a famous actor of stage and screen in France, but this is one of his rare and wonderfully successful efforts as metteur en scene. Matinbe was given for less than a week at the Maison de la Culture of the small suburban village of Bures sur Yvette in a beautifully equipped space. Londsdale and his Narrator (the Proust figure), Serge Maggiani, succeeded in dramatizing with great subtlety and feeling a writer's vocation, a literary artist's gradual apprenticeship. Since this is the very core of Proust's novel, Londsdale's achievement is two-fold: perfect fidelity to the writer's intentions , and a mesmerizing enactment of the very process of literary creation. Serge Maggiani's intense and controlled performance gave me the same feeling as that elicited by the actor of the recent German film, Celeste (a portrait of Proust and his devoted maid/companion/secretary), a sense of having seen Proust in the flesh. 71 Londsdale made fine use of the gentle hill on which the Bures Maison de la Culture is erected. The audience entered a partially darkened room and was seated on tiered benches opposite a wide playing area with a large desk and two elegant chairs facing one another as its only props. Black curtains were drawn across the back of the area. As the play started, these curtains parted slowly to reveal not a stage but a picture window. Dressed in a black, flowing cape tossed over a simple dark blue suit, a young man (Maggiani) was seen striding up a hillside through trees still bare after a long winter. He walked up to the window, placed his hands against the pane of glass and peered within. He saw, as we did from inside the space, a young woman dressed as a man, wearing the same simple blue suit he did, sitting, waiting. This simple but deeply stirring image suggested that the man outside was looking for himself, or for that female part of the androgynous artistic self which must not be denied to the artist if he be whole. By means of this eloquent tableau Londsdale conveyed the meeting of past and present, the artist's quest of le temps perdu. Slowly the curtains were drawn again, and the Narrator entered the inner space. Once inside one had the impression of seeing Proust through the magic lantern of his childhood. The text was spoken by Maggiani's recorded voice while the actor moved through the wide-open space-the library of the Guermantes-as though in pursuit of his many selves. A concert is in progress in the next room. As the door opens admitting a valet who comes in with a glass of orangeade upon a silver tray, gusts of music follow the man in, and whirl around the Narrator. In order not to interrupt the musicale, and also to remain for a while alone with his own thoughts which are now on his vocation as a writer, the latecomer sits down at the comfortable library desk. As he begins to write in a red notebook, much like those lovingly preserved at the Bibliotheque Nationale, we lose the sense that he is at the Guermantes, we think of him as working at his own...


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