La Nuit des Camisards on tour - An interview with Lionnel Astier by Julie Rabier

La Nuit des Camisards on tour 1In October 1685, with the revocation of the Edict of Nantes, Louis XIV declared the end of freedom of religion in France. Protestants were forced to convert to Catholicism or resist and go underground. In the Cévennes mountains Protestantism survived during secret meetings at which plans were made for armed revolt. On July 24 1702, the Abbot du Chayla was murdered by the first camisards. This theatre piece begins the day before the event.

Focussing upon the freedom of conscience and the dark period of the religious war between Catholics and Protestants, the play will celebrate its hundredth performance this summer.

It was created through collaboration between Lionnel Astier, actor, director and adapter, and Gilbert Rouvière, producer and director of the Zinc theatre company. The play was performed for the first time in Saint-Jean-du-Gard in 2007. It has enjoyed success both with the public and performers alike with open-air performances in Alès and several other locations. For 2016, the play has returned to its roots through travelling theatre featuring eleven performances in nine towns.

Julie Rabier has interviewed its main character Lionnel Astier. Originally from Alès he also performs in a very famous French TV comedy with his son: Kaamelott.


La Nuit des Camisards on tour 2Julie Rabier: Lionnel Astier, you are the author of La Nuit des Camisards. How do you describe it?

L.A.: As the most simple and true purpose of theatre, it is an intensely human story without religious bias, every conviction is exposed with equal importance at a specific moment of our history.


J.R.: Is the play an historical representation?

L.A.: No, every show involves a reading. The piece is targeted at everyone, both experts and laypersons. It’s a fable about an extraordinary human adventure which, like every fable, has to both educate and deliver some truth.


J.R.: But you rely upon historical facts?

L.A.: Yes, but history doesn’t tell us everything and leaves gaps for the theatre to fill unoccupied time-spaces. No one possesses the historic truth. Theatre doesn’t search for it, preferring to use emotions and feelings. I think this is also what appeals to the theatre audience who has a fondness for small stories that help to create a greater one.


J.R.: With 17 000 spectators since the first performance, what drives this success?

L.A.: Theatre already speaks to a large audience and theatrical history means one banishes ideas of commemoration and reconstruction. I like the idea that putting on a show is like presenting a gift to a friend.


J.R.: What contemporary occurrences echo "La Nuit des Camisards", do you think?

L.A.: Any resistance, any fight for freedom, both physical and consciousness. All conflicts where death is less important that gaining recognition for a person, a population and for their rights.