2012-02-29
2012-03-19

Barrault Jean-Louis

(1910–1994), French actor, director, artistic director, mime artist (student of Étienne Decroux), one of the most important figures twentieth-century French and European theatre. He made his debut in 1931 at the Théâtre de l’Atelier (1931–1935), where in 1935 he appeared for the first time as both actor and director in the mime performance As I Lay Dying, based on the William Faulkner novel. That year he also began working in his own independent theatre, Studio Grenier des Augustines, which attracted members of the surrealist community (including Antonin Artaud, André Breton, Jacque Prévert). Here he appeared in various roles including Hamlet (1937) and directed Hunger, based on the Knut Hamsun novel (1937). Between 1940 and 1946 he performed and directed at the Comédie-Française (including the title role in Pierre Corneille’s Le Cid; directed Jean Racine’s Phèdre in 1942 and Claudel’s Le Soulier de satin Claudela a year later). In 1946, together with his wife Madeleine Renaud, he founded the private Compagnie Renaud-Barrault which produced works that included an adaptation of Franz Kafka’s Trial (1947), Claudel’s Break of Noon (Partage de Midi) in 1948, Molière’s Les Fourberies de Scapin (1949) and Claudel’s Book of Christopher Columbus (1953) and Aeschylus’ Orestes (1955), and also a mime performance called Baptiste (1946). Between 1959 and 1968 he was artistic director of Théâtre de l’Odéon where he performed numerous roles including Berenger in Ionesco’s Rhinoceros (1960). At the same time he was in charge of the Theatre of Nations – an annual review of the most interesting performances from around the globe. Having been removed from his post for providing youth protestors with access to the theatre during the 1968 revolt, he reactivated the Compagnie Renaud-Barrault which from 1974 was based in the Théâtre d’Orsay, before moving in 1980 to the Théâtre du Rond Point (he staged, among other works, Rabelais’ Gargantua and Pantagruel, 1968; Thus Spake Zarathustra based on Nietzsche’s work, 1974). He committed his rich life story to paper in his memoirs, Memories for Tomorrow (1972, tr. 1974). As artistic director of the Odeon and Theatre of Nations, he invited and hosted the Laboratory Theatre during its famous Paris performances as part of the Tenth Theatre of Nations (21–25 June 1966). During a reception event organised to mark the occasion, he presented Grotowski with a portrait of Antonin Artaud. Several years later, in December 1973, he invited Grotowski to give a series of lectures at the Théâtre d’Orsay, of which Barrault was then artistic director. In 1975, Barrault was invited to Wrocław by Grotowski as a guest of the The University of Research of the Theatre of Nations. In recognition of his achievements, a ceremonial ride through the streets of the city in an open-top car with an escort of horses was organised for Barrault, while the meeting with him on 27 June 1975 was one of the most talked-about events to have taken place at the University.

Bibliography: 

Jean-Louis Barrault: Wspomnienia dla jutra, przełożyła Ewa Krasnowolska, Warszawa 1977.