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A Pleasant Trip between the Giants of the French Theater

Sultan Presents the Lovers of Historical Drama a New Book

The French theater is one of the oldest theaters in the whole world, either at the level of texts and books, or at the level of the many schools that have emerged over the centuries in it. This theater has faithfully embodied most of the historical transformations that France experienced. It was therefore a suitable platform for studying historical plays for researchers and theater specialists.

As a result of the interest of His Highness Sheikh Dr. Sultan bin Muhammad Al Qasimi, Supreme Council Member and Ruler of Sharjah, in the theater, in general, and his keenness to spread the culture of theatrical play among the workers in the field of art Abu Dhabi in the UAE and in the Arab world. His book entitled «History on the French Stage», which was recently published by Al-Qasimi Publications, is dedicated to dedicating his awareness of the necessity of providing world-class theater experiences. And make them available without trouble and in an intensive, smooth and enjoyable manner for the Arab reader and the theater operator in particular.

His Highness began his book with an introduction entitled «History on the French Stage», in which he gave a brief overview of the French historical scene. He said: «The historical theater in France dates back to the fifteenth century AD and is chronicled by the play of the siege of Orleans».

His Highness then reviews the status of the historical theater and its golden age in France, so he said, «The historical theater knew its golden age when the new romanticism, from the story writers or odysseys, or to risk major historical events," he said. They were the ones who found the daily reality weak and unattractive. Hence, they hoped to find in the past their longing for something more beautiful than reality. The number of historical plays in the twentieth century is estimated to be at least two hundred plays».

His Highness then confirms that he chose the most important of those who staged historical plays in France to show their different treatments of history. "I have chosen the most important French playwrights among the eleven historical playwrights," he said. I chose some of their plays to show their different treatments of history in their theatrical work".

The first to be studied by his highness in this area was the French poet, novelist and playwright Edmund Rustan, who gave him an introduction. So he said about him, «Edmund Rustan was a poet, novelist and French playwright who was born on 1 April 1868 in Marseilles and died on December 2, In December 1918, leaving an important literary history consisting of twelve works from a novel, a play, and collection of poems».

His Highness then refers to his choice of two historical plays for Rustan, and the reasons for his choice, saying: «I have chosen from his historical plays two plays: the first (Cyrano de Bergerac). This play was first performed on December 28, 1896 in Paris».

His Highness explains how this play has been very successful and widely recognized not only in France but in many countries of the world. He said, «This work was a success for the playwright (Rustan). The play has been translated into many languages all over the world, and surprisingly, Serrano has become a national symbol in all the countries where it was represented».

His Highness shows the historical background in which the play came, and how it raised the French morale in circumstances that France needed to do so, he said: «The play came at the right time to raise the morale of France, which was damaged by the loss of parts of its territory after the Franco-Prussian Wars of 1870».

Hence, the second play chosen by His Highness for the playwright Rustan is the play «The Eagle's chick.«His Highness said about its topic: «Rustan chose a topic on history, about Napoleon II (1811-1832), who was born in Paris and was proclaimed King of Rome after his birth. The play contains a lot of unknown information about the unfortunate life of this little prince, the son of Napoleon from Mary Louise of Austria, in the court of Schönbrunn in Vienna, where he lived under the protection of his grandfather who was closely watched by the powerful Austrian prince».

The second example addressed by his highness was the playwright Roman Roland, he said about him: «Roland is considered a modern thinker of defenders of peace, and won the Nobel Prize in literature in 1915, his victory is rendered a tribute to the noble ideal in his literary production».

His Highness chose one play as an example of Roland's historical work, a play by Robespier, and praised it and considered it a wonderful work packed with astonishment, and said: «The whole play is a wonderful work, where the emphases and the cycle of the epic runs in a real way, showing the characteristics of fidelity, corruption and continuous brutality, along with greatness, self-sacrifice, but the picture is real and truthful, so that in greatness, man's humility appears vague».

The third model brought by His Highness is the playwright and novelist Albert Camus and chose his famous play «Caligula». His Highness introduced the play saying: «The novel of Caligula speaks of the little Roman Emperor Caligula who was shocked by the sudden death of his sister whom he loved».

Then, he presented a reading of its conceptual contents and explained its main character traits. He said: «His puzzling and timid contemplations led him to believe that his place or position has limitless powers. He is the king of the world, but his mind is muddled with sorrow as he is struggling to control the world».

His Highness then presented another model, Jean Cocteau, and chose from his works three plays, the first was the play «Antigone» about which he said: «It is the original Antigone story, it is a very short play of one chapter, written by the ancient Greek theater (Sophocles) in 441 BC. And then became a common theme for books, plays and other works taken from it».

The second play of Cocto, which was chosen by His Highness in his book is the play «Orfi», and a comparison was held between them with the film directed by Cocteau in 1950 which carries the name of the play itself that is shown at the Cannes Film Festival.

The third play chosen by His Highness for Cocto is the play "Knights of the Round Table", where he said: «In this play, the French poet Cocto used the legend for the purposes of reducing the greatness of the kings and presidents and those around them».

His Highness addresses an important station in French theater where he talks about Henry de Montréal, the famous playwright. From which the author was chosen to discuss the play «The Dead Queen», describing it as a wonderful fairy tale and tragic epic. The story revolves around Pedro I, the king of Portugal and his lover Ennis de Castro, where they lived a love story away from the eyes of the parasites and corruptors. Their relationship was surrounded by the darkness of the Prince's darkness that surrounds the father of King Badro, the crazy, strong and powerful man.

But for the playwright "Alexandre Arnaud", his highness chose from his plays "Hyun Bordeaux", which is full of exciting and sarcastic details, inspired by the magical melodrama, in nine scenes, with a poetic system, a good prose and inspired by the songs of the championship. Hence, the play events take place at the end of the reign of Charlemagne, King of France, where Hyun, the son of the Duke of Bordeaux, killed the son of Charlemagne, Charlotte. The emperor was enraged by his madness. He ordered Hyun to come with four molars and knapsacks from the beard of Godis, the prince of Babylon, or else Hyun would be exonerated.

His Highness stops at an important turning point in the history of French theater when Alexandre Douma deals with the most famous French writers, translating his works into 100 languages. He founded the French Historical Theater in Paris. The author of his play "Henry III and his servants", which tells the life of Henry III of France, and the machinations that were woven in his court.

Among the works of the writer and poet playwright Paul Clodel, the author of deep religious poems, his highness chose the play "Christopher Columbus book, 1833", while the playwright Jean Annouy stopped to choose from his work "Jean d'Arc". It is a historical work that speaks of the old French heroine who helped King Charles VII of France and stopped the English from the siege of the French city Orléan. Many of the plays that he himself divided into groups based on the prevailing theme of the play, and he divided it as follows: Black: They are tragic and realistic plays. Pink: It is the most fantastical. Brilliant: It is predominantly pink and black. These plays are running in an aristocratic atmosphere. There is a scathing or sarcastic work that is a kind of black comedy that gives rise to bitter laughter. And historical plays in which its heroes are characters dating back to different eras and acts of "parquet" that are based on decoration, accessories and expensive technologies.

His Highness addresses one of the most prominent French and international writers in theater, Jean Paul Sartre. He is a philosopher, writer and critic. He has been influenced by the appearance of both Philosophers Huserl and Heidegger. He has famous stories and plays including: Existence and nothingness, eternal dirty, and he refused to accept the Nobel Prize when he won in 1964. Thus, His Highness has chosen from his many works the play "Satan and the Good God", a work consisting of three chapters, and eleven scenes, and deals with: human nature, God and Satan, and the question: "Is good possible?", The events take place in Germany in the sixteenth century, In the time of the peasants' revolt against the Church.

Concerning the native Russian playwright, Sasha Gitri, who hit the record of one hundred forty plays, most notably the New Testament and Cameron's speech. His highness has elected from his plays "The Lame Devil, Scenes from the Life of Talairan", a biography of the French priest and diplomat Charles Maurice Talierne Bérigold, who served his country for 50 years under the command of five different French regimes: Absolute monarchy, revolution, consulate, empire, and constitutional monarchy.

His Highness addresses the play "Sasha Gitri", in some detail, as he is a playwright, actor, director, filmmaker, screenwriter, many of whom have been overwhelmingly successful. He has also directed thirty-six films, most of which he has performed. He has a great biography, although for a long time he was considered an obscure writer.

Thus, His Highness discussed this play and was not found in libraries, French archives and the National Library in Paris until he found it in Belgium. It may be the only remaining version in good condition. Therefore, His Highness has achieved its artistic value. He affirms that Gitri is worthy of being an example of the study of history in theatrical work. Therefore, this play is suitable to be the subject of our study of history on the stage of France, where history and its characters appear in the treatment of the existing present.

The book provides fun and knowledge of the French theater, its present and its glorious history. Indeed, it reflects a journey that His Highness has embarked upon between these great French playwrights to elect a number of their glorious works. His efforts are not limited to the definition of the book and their theatrical works, And cognitive knowledge of each presentation. This book is indispensable to readers and researchers in the history of French theater, and its effects are present and present strongly, in the contemporary theater scene.

Source: Al Khaleej Newspaper - Alaa Eddin Mahmoud, Mohammed Lahbib