- Jacques Copeau et le Théâtre du Vieux-Colombier: Dictionnaire des créations françaises (1913–1924) par Clara Debard
Jacques Copeau's influence on the theatre in France can hardly be over-estimated. At his Théâtre du Vieux-Colombier between 1913 and 1924, and later at the Comédie-Française, he was at the forefront of a movement that both revolutionized stagecraft in inter-war France and laid the groundwork for post-war dramaturgy. Copeau produced the works of some of the most important authors of the period, and his influence on the emergence of theatrical modernism both in text and in performance is indisputable if little-studied. Literary scholars and historians of the period have tended to focus on the still-accessible texts rather than the ephemeral performances, thus relegating Copeau and other theatre creators to the sidelines. Clara Debard's compact reference volume will remedy that state [End Page 315] of affairs. Debard collates an enormous amount of archival material concerning the French plays produced for the first time during the six seasons of the Vieux-Colombier. The main section of the book goes through the plays in alphabetical order and provides for each an act-by-act plot summary and an analysis focusing on the structural elements of the play. This is followed by a section on the production which includes the date and number of performances, a cast list, descriptions of sets and costumes, and information on critical and popular reception. Debard provides a list of editions and a brief critical bibliography for each play with translations, multimedia documents, and archives listed where applicable. The decision to organize this section alphabetically by title, rather than in chronological order of the productions, is rather at odds with the volume's explicit aim to focus critical attention on performance. A chronological arrangement would have highlighted the evolution of Copeau's repertoire over time. A second section provides a chapter on each of the authors whose plays Copeau produced. Arranged alphabetically by author, each chapter includes a concise biography and a critical bibliography as well as lists of dramatic works, poetic works, novels, screenplays, essays, and correspondence by the playwright. Debard also notes adaptations, sound archives and filmography where applicable. This section is especially useful in situating the lesser-known authors with whom Copeau worked. While chapters on the better-known authors such as Claudel and Gide do not provide new information, they have the merit of presenting the major facts succinctly. The final section is a chart listing all the plays produced at the Vieux-Colombier, both from France and abroad. The French plays are further divided into ancient and modern, with the modern plays divided between revivals and premiers. While the editorial choice to keep this chart uncluttered is understandable, this reader would have preferred for it to include more information, at least the dates and numbers of performances for those plays not profiled in the main part of the book. This would have allowed a reader to compare the relative importance in Copeau's repertoire of the new plays he produced with the classics he revived. This quibble aside, Debard's dictionary is a major and most welcome contribution to scholarship on inter-war theatre.