Avignon and the Fringe Festival of France
09.07.2013 - 09.07.2013
The itinerary called for another day in Carry le Rouet. All the itinerary really cared about was that we spent each night at the hotel that we booked. Apart from that, we had a Europass that would get us anywhere in Europe by train. So my father and I looked at train schedules, looked at towns, and decided that Avignon sounded like a nice town to visit.
To get from Carry le Rouet to Avignon, we were going to leave in the morning by way of Mirimas. We'd have about an hour there, than catch a train to Avignon. On the way back, we would take a train to L'estrac, have 45 minutes there, then take another train back to Carry le Rouet. We'd get to Avignon around lunch and leave shortly before dinner.
Avignon is most famous for the Papal Palace and the Saint-Benezet bridge. I wasn't terribly interested in popes, but there was also Le Fort Saint-Andre and La chartreuse which both sounded interesting. So we decided that we would head to those, looking for lunch on the way.
With a plan in mind, we headed out.
Mirimas was bigger than Carry le Rouet. Not dramatically bigger, but slightly. There was a second hand shop that sold books and ceramic cups and napkins. (It sold more than that, but that was all my father and I were interested in.) There were several bakeries, some of which were open. There was a tourist shop with information about Provence and other regions. It was a nice little town, but I wasn't terribly upset to leave it.
When we got to Avingon, I noticed a big open area with more than three booths. We went over to look at it. There was a sign advertising the Avignon book festival. Sure enough, almost every booth was for books. One was for something either audio or audiovisual. I ignored it and looked at the other tents. So many books...
Apart from the occasional thought process along the lines of “I didn't know that Stendahl wrote something called 'Romans.' Oh, wait, that's just French for 'novels.' They're saying he wrote several novels. That makes way more sense...”
There were also a fair number of books that I'd never seen in the United States. I remember when my brother was trying to interlibrary lone Sully Prudhomme (the first recipient of the Nobel Prize in literature) and could only find him in a handful of libraries. And now he was for sale at several different stalls.
My father left me looking at books while he looked at places for lunch. I continued browsing along the stalls. I saw several odd transliterations of Dostoevsky and Tolstoy's names, and a Russian language Anna Karenina and book of magic tricks, but mostly all of the books I saw were in French.
And then a woman came up to me and gave me a flier and asked me to come see a play that evening. I took the flier automatically, and looked at it after she left. Premier Amour, by Samuel Beckett. It started after we left Avignon.
When I met up with my father again, I showed him the flier and asked if he was sure we couldn't stay longer. The response was yes, but that wasn't the only play going on. We'd come to Avignon while it was in the middle of hosting France's biggest theater festival.
While we ate lunch, we were surrounded by the festival. There were the fliers we'd been handed. There was the place-mat that listed various shows that were playing in one of the venues. There were posters hanging down from the ceiling that advertised even more shows. It seemed like every part of Avignon that people walked through regularly was plastered with posters.
And then there were the groups that tried to get attention for their show. Getting noticed in a town that's going through a major theater festival isn't easy. The best way is to dress up in the costumes that you're going to wear on stage (works especially well if costumes are ball-gowns or something else really unusual)) and handing out fliers. Maybe you'll also sing.
Not surprisingly, a French theater festival loved Moliere and was showing a lot of his works. Surprisingly, they also seemed to love Oscar Wilde. While we were eating lunch, I noticed two side-by-side posters, one for The Importance of Being Earnest and another for The Picture of Dorian Gray. That made sense, as those were his two most famous works. But as we kept walking, I noticed more. Oscar Wilde is Dead. The Importance of Being Wilde. The Canterville Ghost . At the point at which you're adapting short stories, you're kind of grasping at straws. I'm pretty sure I saw more advertisements for Oscar Wilde works than Shakespearean ones, which I bizarre.
We did see one play- Animal Farm. Based on the work by George Orwell.
It was a one-man production. I think the man who was doing it was supposed to be famous, because his name was advertised on the handouts. In the middle of the play,he also gave a section that seemed to have very little to do with animal farm. It didn't have any French in it, The English I caught from that was “Oh no” (which could have been “Ah! Non!,” I suppose,) and “atomic bomb.” I didn't understand that part at all, but it was probably something he was known for.
Apart from that, it was very good. Animal Farm is the kind of story that's kind of hard to adapt to stge, let alone to one person on stage. But he was a wonderfully expressive actor, with superb control over his face, voice, and body. I could tell the difference between the prissy horse Lubie and Snowball. It was harder to tell the difference between Snowball and Napoleon, and I don't think the horses ever appeared, or Moses, which was kind of disappointing. But when you're a single person, I understand that some corners have to be cut.
I was disappointed that they never sang “Beasts of England,” or, in this case, “Beasts of France.” I was kind of surprised that Napoleon's name hadn't changed, because I believed I'd heard that in French versions of Animal Farm, it did. And I was very amused that right before they came up with the commandment “All animals are equal” they discussed what conce[pts it needed to encompass. You know, the essential ones of “liberté, fraternité, egalité...”
Comprehension wasn't too bad. There was no full scene in French that I was not able to understand. I definitely would not have been able to understand it if I hadn't read the book and remembered it fairly well, though. I'm not sure if a native frenchman who hadn't read the book would have been able to understand or appreciate it that well. One man shows tend to add a difficulty to comprehension that have nothing to do with linguistic ability.
I will give Carry le Rouet this over Avignon- it's easier to find grocery stores that are closer in Carry le Rouet. We ended up needing to move rather quickly to get dinner at the grocery store and get to the train on time. We made it on with minutes to spare, because we were on the train for about the same period of time as a French dinner would have taken.
We got off at L'Estraque with 45 minutes to kill. L'Estaque was basically closed down when we got there a bit after 8. After walking several blocks, we finally managed to find a store that was open, and another four or five that were closed. So I'll also give Carry le Rouet this- at least it doesn't close down by 8:00 at night.
Still, glad I spent the day in Avignon instead. It was fascinating to advertisements for some of the shows that were playing. (Even as we were walking back to the train station, I kept seeing posters I hadn't noticed before.) And I liked being able to watch a theater performance in French. Even if the piece in question was a British satire of Russia.