Paris (AFP)

No audience, no direct, but winners anyway: health constraints have transformed the Molières 2020 into a new edition, broadcast Tuesday evening on France 2 after being pre-recorded over four days before a handful of nominees.

The ceremony, which awards the most prestigious theater awards in France each year, took place in two stages to respect social distancing, at a time when almost all of the stages, already at the end of the season and still subject to a gauge restriction, are stopped.

It was the play "Electre des bas-fonds" by Simon Abkarian, which was playing at the Théâtre du Soleil by Ariane Mnouchkine, which won the Molière for public theater, the Molière for staging (in the public theater) and the Molière of the living French-speaking author.

"Without artists, life would be deadly. And theater is like original sin, it reproduces, and it will rise again," said Abkarian to AFP.

"La Mouche", a success at Bouffes du Nord attended by the Macron couple in January before being exfiltrated from the theater due to a demonstration, was also awarded three Molières, including those of the best comedians and actresses in the audience , the Belgian Christian Hecq and the plastic artist Valérie Lesort, who also signed the production.

The 19 prizes, dance, song and music performances were recorded at the Théâtre du Châtelet for four days. The whole was then mixed by adding a "best of" of the highlights of the Molières since their creation in 1987, with in particular a tribute to the humorist Guy Bedos.

The "making of" took place in a strange atmosphere, but good-natured.

At each session, a handful of nominees, in suits and evening dresses, entered in a dropper, filmed by masked cameramen, and settled in the floor of the 2,000-seat room.

Among them, Alexis Michalik, the gifted of the French theater who won the Molière for the best director in the private theater for "A love story", Niels Arestrup, best actor in the private, Alex Lutz (Molière of the humor), Pierre Richard (Molière on stage alone) or even the great lady of the Comédie-Française Dominique Blanc (best actress in a supporting role).

On the illuminated stage, France 2 journalist Marie-Sophie Lacarrau acts as mistress of ceremony, accompanied in turn by the president of Molières and owner of Parisian theaters Jean-Marc Dumontet, actor Jean-Pierre Darroussin or actresses Audrey Fleurot and Isabelle Carré.

If the suspense is there, the winners a little taken aback do not really know how to react, since they were asked to ... stay in their place at the announcement of their name.

- "Caught off guard" -

Ovated by their colleagues, they get up and they give them the microphone - with a disinfectant wipe - for a brief intervention.

"The artists are moved even without the decorum. They are caught off guard because normally it is something that you share with a whole room that trembles", commented to AFP Mr. Dumontet who had insisted that this ceremony be held to "put the theater back in the spotlight".

Highlights from previous editions, organized in crowded rooms, are viewed on small screens suspended above the stage, a bit like a vision of "the old world".

The Molières were broadcast, a rare thing, in prime time, at 9:00 p.m.

"Marie des poules - governante chez George Sand" won the Molière in private theater as well as the Molière for the best actress in this category, Béatrice Agenin.

Faced with restrictions, we take the party to laugh.

"We all played when we started in front of four people," said Alex Lutz. "And there we say, ah it's so good, in fact, when the room is full!".

© 2020 AFP