Jerôme Bel’s Cédric Andrieux
Posted by: John Wilmot
It’s so much more difficult to discuss something good. Train wrecks are easy and fun to describe. But trying to effectively communicate what makes something great is fraught with pitfalls and frustration. Oh, the temptation to use lots of exclamation points!!!
That is precisely my dilemma after watching Cédric Andrieux. Nothing much happened. There was no set design to speak of. During most of the one-man show, the eponymous Cédric Andrieux stood stock still in one spot and did little more than speak quietly in a French-accented monotone. Yet I will certainly remember his performance as one of my very favorites.
First, because it’s what you notice first, he is a beautiful man. Might as well get that out of the way. We were treated to the uninterrupted sight of his handsome face, frozen and immobile as a sculpture, for the whole length show. And, being a dancer, we see his body. Appearing first in slouchy, everyday clothes, he steps off stage to slip on a unitard, returning to stand before us and declare that it hides nothing. So naturally we look. We watch him flex, stretch, dance, jiggle. Beautiful man.
But that’s not enough to carry a show. So I have to mention next that Andrieux is, of course, talented — internationally acclaimed, in fact. At 33, he has the magnetic presence of a seasoned professional, and from the moment he stood on stage, he kept the audience in a state of focused attention. He spoke softly and very slowly, the subject being his own life, and he delivered each line with perfect discipline, never smiling, never changing his tone, all to mesmerizing effect.
One of the more impressive moments came when Andrieux reprized his performance in Jerôme Bel’s The Show Must Go On. And this is what he did: Nothing. He stood at the edge of the stage while the night’s only music — Every Breath You Take, by the Police — played loudly, and he simply looked around at the audience, making eye contact with his frozen, sculpted face. Yet we were entranced. Then a girl up in the balcony caught his attention, and he broke. He laughed briefly, and his radiant smile charged the audience, who smiled and laughed along with him in a strangely electric moment. How is it possible to fully convey the natural greatness of a performer who only has to stand there to impress?
Ultimately, though, it was the intimacy of the evening that must be given credit for its power. The tiny Winningstad Theatre has fewer than three hundred seats, and we all sat close enough to see every curl of Andrieux’s toes and every bead of his sweat. It was possible to look directly into his eyes as he spoke in measured, accented tones, with humor and humility, about the significant moments of his unusual life, as well as its ordinary embarrassments and quotidian tortures. Up on stage, he brought himself down to earth for us to see, and we could and did. However illusory the impression, we could imagine that we had met and known genius and that it was just like us. And that is genius.