2020 version of Molière: "The cage bird"

During the recording of "L'Oiseau en cage", a contemporary play written after Molière by Emmelyne Octavie, interpreted by the actors and comedians of the Comédie-Française. © Anthony Ravera / RFI

Text by: Pascal Paradou

What if Molière lived today? When “L'École des femmes” becomes “L'Oiseau en cage”, a contemporary play written after Molière. An unprecedented play with delight by the actresses of the Comédie-Française. The third radio creation “Réécrire Molière” is broadcast and published this Thursday, March 26, exclusively on the antenna and on the RFI website.


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On the eve of his 400th birthday, the author of L'Avare , Misanthrope and L'École des Femmes is undoubtedly the most played French author in the world. His theater has been the foundation of the Comédie-Française repertoire since its creation in 1680, but the universality of his work is attested from Cameroon to Venezuela, from Port-au-Prince to Berlin.

Molière does not belong to anyone or rather belongs to everyone, from the most famous directors to amateur companies and each of his pieces pins a feeling or a human bias so much so that his characters have become nouns. To make the Harpagon, to be a Monsieur Jourdain or a Tartuffe, to become a Misanthrope. Not to mention his aftershocks that cross the centuries: " My cassette, my cassette! " The little cat is dead!" " But what the hell was he going to do in this galley!" In a few words as in a hundred, Jean-Baptiste Poquelin would therefore be modern.

Constraints to rewrite Molière

Convinced of this modernity, a dozen French-speaking theater writers seized ten of Molière's plays to subject them to a small electric shock or rather a spatio-temporal distortion thus summarized: if Molière lived today, what would he talk about With what vocabulary and what language?

For ten days these writers faced the challenge of rewriting Molière, adapting and shortening it as part of the 10 out of 10 project, orchestrated by the association Drameducation, the international center for French-speaking theater in Poland created by a passionate former teacher, Jan Nowak, and his accomplice Iris Munos. For nine years now, this structure has been organizing residences where, for ten days, everyone must write a ten-page piece for ten characters with the aim of being used in the classroom for French learners.

Thus was also done Molière under the demanding eye of the literary advisor of the Comédie-Française, Laurent Muhleisen, who had set three additional rules: keep the names of the characters, respect the original plot and "talk about today". Thus L'École des femmes become L'Oiseau en cage becomes a feminist pamphlet against forced marriage and pedophilia under the pen of Emmelyne Octavie, Le Misanthrope an abyss on pride and rivalry orchestrated by Dorothée Zumstein imagining that Molière himself comes to attend rehearsals of his play incognito. Finally, the Canadian Isabelle Hubert imagines the ultimate deception of Scapin with The trial where she scratches corruption and greed in the process. These first three pieces were recorded by the Comédiens-Français. The others will follow after the Covid-19 epidemic.

During the recording of "L'Oiseau en cage", a contemporary play written after Molière by Emmelyne Octavie, interpreted by the actors and comedians of the Comédie-Française. © Anthony Ravera / RFI

In the large Mounet Sully lounge of the Comédie-Française, the Comédiens-Français, who know their author at the tip of their fingers, have therefore played the game of saying Molière differently, with today's language where we speak hashtag, Netflix, a bit of verlan and sometimes in Alexandrine. Happiness of lags and collisions, for Loïc Corbery or Françoise Gillard, it is obvious that the spirit of the great man is respected.

Before being statufié, to have given its name to the language itself which is spoken in the French-speaking world, Molière makes a theater of its time, “ there is therefore a logic to update it so that everyone understands that 'he also talks about ours ,' says Laurent Mulheisen. Opinion shared by Jan Nowak, the initiator of the project who is delighted that young people from around the world can learn French from these texts which will then take young speakers to discover Molière's plays. " It lacks the language, the beautiful language of this 17th century, " says Pierrette Crouzet Daurat, head of the development and enrichment of the French language at the DGLFLF. " Molière is first and foremost a language ".

These pieces from the 10 out of 10 collection do not pretend to replace those of Molière, but to serve as a gateway to this classic theater, the first step towards learning French with the certainty that young people pupils and listeners alike will be able to taste the relevance of the situations and the happiness of the game. Listening to the Comédiens-Français, the pleasure of the text is a viral disease!

Listen from Thursday March 26, 2020 at 1:30 p.m. (UT): Rewrite Molière (3): The Bird in a cage

► Also listen: Rewrite Molière (2): The Misanthrope

► Also listen: Rewrite Molière (1): Les Fourberies de Scapin

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On the same subject


Rewrite Molière: "The Misanthrope"


Rewriting Molière: Les Fourberies de Scapin