# 4 DOM JUAN OR THE FEAST WITH THE STATUE
By Jean Lambert-wild, Lorenzo Malaguerra and Marc Goldberg
The creative team behind DOM JUAN OR THE FEAST WITH THE STATUE share diary entries about their new show.
Very early on, we knew who was going to play Dom Juan (Jean Lambert-wild) and Sganarelle (Steve Tientcheu), and that this decision would inform the whole casting process. But who were we going to entrust with playing the other characters (the ones we kept) in Molière’s Dom Juan ?
These characters aren’t “secondary”: the main parts can only be so because they press shoulders with them. It is through encounters between them, their antagonism and their conversations, that they become deeper characters. Dom Juan’s cruelty and Sganarelle’s humanity grow commensurate to Donna Elvira’s passion. The master’s seductive power and the servant’s compromises of his principles become richer because of Charlotte’s resistance. Dom Juan’s blind spot appears in the light of how the Beggar resists him.
Every casting process – since this is what this is about – varies with each show and depends on different circumstances. In some cases, the aim might be to allocate, in the best possible way, the different parts across a pre-existing group (when a company do a production of a play for instance), or it might be to select the actors that we feel best match specific parts or the idea the director or the producer have of the parts, following an artistic or commercial approach. Here, we feel this question needs to be considered in a singular way, starting from what is at stake dramaturgically.
So we go back to the beginning. Presiding over this project are two people with two desires, two intuitions: they want to take another look at the duo Dom Juan - Sganarelle in Molière’s play, and explore how the hero’s confrontation with death in the final feast affects the whole narrative. This is how an idea progressively emerged: shouldn’t we create and highlight a radical opposition between this duo and the other characters?
If death is the convergence line we see in Dom Juan’s adventures, shouldn’t the other characters embody the opposite of death, in other words: youth? We decided to look into this hypothesis and test it …
Nothing prevents characters such as Charlotte, or even Donna Elvira, from exuding youth. They become flowing springs where our Dom Juan, who grapples with death, comes to be reinvigorated. In this light, the act of seducing becomes an elixir of youth. For Dom Juan, to be loved by these young people means diverting the spectre of death for a bit. It is clearer now why, as soon as he succeeds in seducing these sweethearts, he no longer finds them attractive. What revives him is to hunt, not predate or consume. Seen in this light, the end of the scene with Charlotte immediately gains a particular dynamic.
Let’s now look at Francisco, the Beggar. We think of him as elderly, wise, frail, sickly, wretched, but still he resists against ‘the greatest renegade that the earth has ever endured’, as Sganarelle would say. If he is young instead, if in spite of being poor he oozes a type of vitality that Dom Juan feels escapes him, he no longer comes across as a victim but instead as someone ‘reduced to begging’. He fully becomes what Molière seems to want him to be: someone made unwavering by his faith, immune to the libertine’s nit-picking. He is beyond the reach of our Dom Juan, who is a hunter of souls. He doesn’t have Donna Elvira’s fickle and passionate youth, nor Charlotte’s gullible and greedy youth. Instead, his youth is unrelenting, idealistic and uncompromising.
Finally: Dom Carlos. Can the father be played by an actor who is younger than the son?! This seems to go against common sense, but since this is a play that ends on a confrontation between a man and a statue made of stone, should we give in to the tyranny of realism? Especially since once we entertain this possibility, surprising perspectives emerge.
In the play’s economics, what does Dom Carlos represent? Does he represent order, does he praise traditional values, harping on and on about all sorts of obligations, reasserting the frame within which the hero’s life should sit? Coming out of an elderly father’s mouth, this makes sense. But proffered by a young man, it becomes a sort of nightmarish hallucination for Dom Juan, a dialogue with an inverted doppelganger, the model son he could have been, stern and solemn like a good pupil… It’s clearer now why Dom Juan says ‘it fills me with rage to see fathers who live as long as their sons’. He hears the father in himself, and it’s him he wants to silence at all costs. This way, the confrontation with Dom Carlos takes on fantastic, feverish and disturbing colours, and the encounter with the Commander becomes its natural efflorescence.
We thought that young actors who had just finished their training at drama school would be best placed to enact this artistic decision. The 9thcohort of Académie de l’Union – École Supérieure d’Art Dramatique, joined to Théâtre de l’Union, would graduate as the last rehearsals would end. It became evident that we needed to make an artistic link between these two neighbouring institutions.
Following our own logic to its conclusion, we chose to not cast just one student per role. The four characters will be played by different actors each night. This way, these young professionals’ vitality and inventiveness, echoing the role that their characters play in the show, will every night stimulate, renew, nurture, revive the show as well as the acting of two seasoned actors such as Jean Lambert-wild and Steve Tientcheu. This is how the coherence we were looking for, between dramaturgy and casting, will manifest.