“Le Suicidé”, at the TNP in Villeurbanne: deadly kisses from Russia

The journey of a man driven to suicide by a society that ostracizes him to the worst. The 1920s play by Soviet playwright Nicolai Erdman, directed by Jean Bellorini, resonates terribly with the wanderings of present-day Russia.

“What a living person can think, only a dead person can say. » This shock replica of the Suicide, a play written by the young playwright Nicolai Erdman (1900-1970) about Soviet Russia in 1928, resonates with that of Vladimir Putin. It earned total censorship for its author. The great Meyerhold himself was unable to stage it, before being brutally murdered in 1940 by Stalin’s henchmen. Erdman was later relegated to Siberia because of a satirical poem. Then he only wrote comedies for the cinema.

Seven years ago, the director Jean Bellorini, today at the head of the National Popular Theater of Villeurbanne, had already staged The Suicide in German, with the Berliner Ensemble. His fable was clownish. She now expresses more of a sense of melancholy absurdity, carried by her amazing troupe of accomplices, François Deblock in the lead, with breathtaking virtuosity in the role of Sémione, “the suicide”.

On the empty stage, the couple formed by the latter and Masha is also filmed from above, heads upside down, on an iron bed. Hilarious image projected on the big screen where we see the unemployed husband waking up his exhausted wife to inquire about the liver sausage. But this selfish character is gradually transformed into revealing the impasses of Soviet society. After a misunderstanding that stuck him with a suicidal image, he individualizes himself, comes out of the “mass”, while “interest groups” seek to sell him an ideological reason for his future gesture.

Modern images and timeless drama

Starting with Aristarchus, who represents “the intelligentsia”. There is also the scheming organizer of a shooting range who looks like the mafiosos of today’s Russia. Without needing to support the caricature, the equivalence with contemporary Russian society is obvious. The blanket of terror, falling here so heavily from the Kremlin, merges with that described by those who today leave their country. The director causes an additional shock wave by projecting towards the end a video posted, last September, by the young Russian rapper Ivan Petunin, who a priori killed himself to protest against the general mobilization.

Lost in such a vast space, the vociferous tribulations of Sémione – crudely translated by André Markowicz – knock on doors fallen from above. Accordion, brass and percussion accompany his wanderings live to the central tableau: a spectacular banquet counting down the minutes before the suicide desired by all of a man who is increasingly alone. Sémione, in her underpants, standing on the table, tastes her quarter of an hour of fame while singing creepy, by Radiohead. Therein lies the strength of the show: infusing a thousand sensitive and funny details so as not to despair the public. And thus do justice to this black irony of Nicolaï Erdman.

“Le Suicidé”, at the TNP in Villeurbanne: deadly kisses from Russia