top of page

Elsa's Fool

by Louis Aragon

National Hill Theater

from January 29 to February 20, 2005

Adapted and edited by Marc Dondey
Directed by Anne Torres


Interview with Anne Torrès, director, by Maryse Ferrand


An original project, clearly defined by the director, Anne Torrès:
“What interests me is not to present the n° version of a known play but to present texts that we don't hear in the theatre. I work the text like a score. Here, everything is very structured. There are parts, scenes. There are several dramatic structures which are sometimes parallel, sometimes crossed. These are not selected pieces. We have given up very seductive passages to give more force to the dramatic structure. It's a play. Not on Aragon but on the fall of Granada as he tells it. It may be betraying Aragon to make a play out of it when he didn't want to or didn't succeed, but I claim this “betrayal”.


A great work of elucidation of the text. Let's listen to Marc Dondey, playwright:
“To speak only of the framework of the story, at least five chronologies are intertwined in Le Fou d'Elsa: military, diplomatic and social chronicle of the siege and fall of Granada; immersed in the political and personal dilemma of Boabdil; rejection, trial and death of the Medjnoûn; transition from the adolescent Zaïd to adulthood, first romance with the young Jewess Simha, tragically interrupted by Simha's rape and death; life and ordeal of the poet Federico Garcia Lorca. In an almost burlesque mode, Aragon likes to imagine, mixed with the Jews and Muslims of Granada, a frenetic Christopher Columbus, obsessed with seeking subsidies from the Catholic court to finance his expedition to Cipango. He sailed in the other direction, towards the New World, the very day of the fall of Granada. It is the only upward curve of this network of announced defeats.
And then it stops. Suspension, precipitation of time. It stops several times to say this strange moment of the birth of the word, which clears its way from the unspeakable to the page, to the noted, spoken, sung voice. Tight throat, at dawn, Aragon takes note.

      _cc781905- 5cde-3194-bb3b-136bad5cf58d_     Et le songe écaillé se caille dans mon cahier
      _cc781905- 5cde-3194-bb3b-136bad5cf58d_     Il y a comme cela des matins où rien ne rime nor is ordered

Incomparable lost moments.


The decomposition/editing of the text: a succession of challenges:
Sacrifice scholarly digressions on versification, the thought of Avicenna, Saint John of the Cross, the art of ballet, the New Theater, the question of God to condense in a duration of 2 h-30, a sum of 450 pages with the only words of Aragon and lose none of its dramatic tension.
To give to hear in their fulgurance, the mixed stories, the extraordinary variety of the songs and the sound of the secret, of the absence, which Anne Torrès detected in this text and which is there like a kind of note, like a kind in tune with the poem”
Bring out from the text the characters likely to give substance to all this complexity.


  A subtle and powerful text:
“We will hear the whole Prologue which is absolutely wonderful. Aragon evokes the wars of Spain, of 14/18, of 39/40, so many conflicts in which people today did not take part and of which they no longer have any idea, while he went to forehead. He knows what he's talking about. You absolutely have to imagine that. He never shied away. . But we don't know how we write from this point of view.
The historical chronology scrupulously respected even if some texts could be moved. "It was very difficult to make sure that it was not too complex and that it at the same time reflected the wars between all the factions gnawed from within by infighting and attacked from without by the catholics. It was necessary to say these ten years of war, of ruin, and to suggest that all power is doomed to ruin, ruin which is however the condition of a renewal. What interested me even more, is to show how one integrates into this disaster, an immense love story. Inside the fall, there is this other verticality that is love, this positive tension. »

Each of the four parts is linked to a season:
I.: Granada-.Summer: and successively: the room of the Fool and its songs, el Rey Chico, the Bourse aux rimes and the Caravansérail.
II. : The Alhambra/Al Baiyazin - Autumn: The imaginary life of the Wazir, his reversals; the events of 1482-1484;.Rondah, 148;. Boabdil acclaimed at Granada in 1489; his dialogue with Aïcha, his mother; the seat of Granada.
A brief lunar interlude as a sign of Arab-Andalusian culture.
III: 1491-1492 -.Winter. Zaïd becomes a man; the Medjoun trial; The Torah, the Bible, the Koran; The capitulation ; the rape of Simha; the surrender of Granada.
IV: Diary of Zaïd – Spring. Simha's burial; the plunger.
Epilogue: songs of the 20th century


The Medjnoûn: absent and multiplied:
He appears neither as a character nor as an actor. For Anne Torrès: “It was out of the question for there to be someone to represent him because what is shown to us is that every being carries within him the possibility of accessing the poetic transgression of things. Each actor is at some point possessed by the Djinn who inhabits him. Everyone is Medjoûn, everyone has their jinn. The Medjoun is the one who is in front of the mirror. We don't know who he is. Nor was it about putting Aragon or Elsa on stage. They are both absent and omnipresent and this is perhaps what gives way to theatre. »


six characters:
The most important are Boabdil and Zaïd, the true thread of the story because he is both the witness and “the adolescent who becomes a man the day he falls in love. It is “indissociable from Simha who is Jewish and who goes through the 20th century. Century. The first scene after the Prologue is a love duet between Zaid and Simha. It's love at first sight that passes through the poems of the Medjoûn and a celebration of poetry. There is also Molinet, a skilled rhetorician in versification who is a kind of Blue Helmet or rather Albert Londres, and Christopher Columbus, a Jewish convert to Catholicism who is looking for funds for his expedition. Naturally we could not do without the Wazir, the champion of the reversal of jackets which reveals the functioning of the factions.


Transvestism, the impossibility of the mirror and the theater:
Zaïd will be played by a woman "who will then play Aïcha, the Khadija of the Koran, in the most masterfully feminine model": "I liked" says Anne Torrès again "the idea of a young girl playing this unfinished being who , at the end of the longest day of his life, becomes a man because he fell in love. It seems to me that Aragon was very interested in the problem of cross-dressing which runs through all the theater of the xxxviii° for example. I wanted to reflect the extraordinary complexity of this text in the sexual field: for example, in the rape scene, the first, Aïcha and Boaddil will wear the same dress in the mirror and under the gaze, in a way premonitory , of Simha who is Zaid's lover. Sometimes the boys are disguised as women: thus the three gazelles of the harem will also be soldiers in dress, appearing, in turn or simultaneously, the factions, the feminine... We know who is who, but everything is very complicated. In Shakespeare's time women were played by men. I wanted to stage the multiple facets that a being carries within: the masculine / the feminine, the adolescent / the mother. It seems to me that this is the meaning that Aragon gives to the mirror and to the theatre. For him, we are so multiple that the mirror is impossible. It breaks as soon as you get in front of it. It is necessarily broken and dangerous. We can cut ourselves off. I wanted us to be crossed by the feminine, the masculine, youth and old age and to show that all of this manifests an anguish and not a fantasy. You can navigate through the time of your life, feeling old at twenty or young at fifty. Aragon is called by youth but you can only feel this if you have experienced the misfortune of being born. This is something that I have experienced for a long time. You have to experience yourself as multiple and as wide as a big fan, otherwise you get bored”
The people will not appear as such but we will hear the magnificent poem of "The Man of Mardj in response to the Stranger", the spy. The idea of using graphs which are erasable murals as well as tags came from a word from Aragon “Those who love write on the walls”. At first everything will be red.
Of "Elsa's Crazy" Anne Torrès says again "I defend the beauty of the "inner being of Aragon" and of the very, very great French poetry that is both extremely scholarly and extremely popular I did not know Aragon, but when I had read it, I rejuvenated. »



by subject or by author in our publications


bottom of page