chapter  2
THE COMEDY OF OUR TIME
Pages 42

With L’Age d’Or, the Théâtre du Soleil addresses itself more directly than previously to the issues of contemporary social reality-to investigating the everyday struggles, the events hardly familiar before they come to seem banal, which fill newspapers and newscasts, that unite and divide all manner of political groups, and which compel the erratic push and pull of government in France. Topics for the play’s episodes originate in a published chronology of events,4 dating from the 1973 cholera epidemic in Naples to the December 1974 deaths

of forty-two coal miners in northern France. It includes specific instances of strikes, workers’ solidarity, factory occupation, injury and fatality in industry and commerce, prison brutality, military indignity, individual rights, over-crowded low-income housing, price fixing, government repression, bribery, favouritism and racism. The actors approach socio-political events and issues with the techniques of improvisation and the character-types of the three theatrical styles in which they have been working intensively over the last eighteen months: commedia dell’arte, ancient Chinese theatre and circus. Some episodes were developed from talks with workers in factories, mines, hospitals and schools […] So for example the current production’s final episode comes directly from discussions and improvisations with a committee of workers from the nearby Kodak factory, its setting now changed to a construction site. A group of high school students helped the troupe develop through improvisation an opium den scene from traditional Chinese theatre into an episode about family television and drugs. A group of young immigrants participated in the development of an episode relating to a recent rent-strike scandal, involving 240 workers housed in twenty-six rooms of a low-income apartment building.