Avignon (AFP)

"We were ready, the audience was there, and nothing happened": in a spangled jumpsuit on the stage of the Théâtre de l'Oulle in Avignon (South of France), actress Alice Benoit was moved.

In the midst of a health crisis, a symbolic "open theaters" operation was interrupted by the police.

It should have been "a meeting, a moment of emotion between a very beautiful show and the public", after months of closure because of the health crisis due to Covid-19, in the words of Laurent Rochut, artistic director of the Factory, a network of places dedicated to the practice and representation of the performing arts in Avignon.

It was at his call that around forty theaters in France, including nine in Avignon - where one of the most famous theater festivals in Europe takes place in July -, were to participate in the event on Saturday which consisted of, for only one hour, to open the doors of the rooms to the spectators to allow them to attend short performances.

Despite the pouring rain, several dozen people, soggy but happy, waited for the doors to open to the sound of a guitar.

Actors pass a head through the door to thank the public for having come: "You are touching, thank you!", Launches an actress.

A clown perched on stilts, equipped with a huge foam hammer, provokes smiles despite the rain and the failure of the demonstration.

Among them, Odile Duperret, English teacher, came "out of solidarity, conviction and love of the show".

- "It gives back energy" -

In the theater, everything was ready to welcome the spectators, with a seat away from each other.

Technicians put away the equipment deployed for the performance.

On stage, the actors are seated, made up, costumed, gazing into space.

Despite the disappointment of not being able to play, Alice Benoit is happy to have seen the audience: "It gives you energy to see them, to see that there are people waiting for us, outside".

She hasn't played for a year - "and I don't expect not to play for another year, sometimes it's hard to get up in the morning, theaters are calling one after another to postpone the scheduled dates. ", she confides.

Laurent Rochut warns of "a mass extinction" of "all these companies which will not recover, which will die because the system with which the government supports them is not suited to the situation".

Already on January 16, several hundred people demonstrated in front of the Palais des Papes in Avignon, an emblematic place for the theater festival, to demand the reopening of cultural venues in France.

French theaters have been closed since October 30 and are still in the dark about the prospects of reopening, despite several disappointed hopes of reopening, which have aroused great emotion in the cultural community.

The next Avignon International Theater Festival is scheduled to take place from July 5 to 25.

Capital of the theater every July, the City of the Popes was deprived in 2020 of its 150,000 visitors who are fans of the performing arts, due to the Covid-19 epidemic.

© 2021 AFP