Pascale GOETSCHEL, Theatre renewal and decentralization, (1945-1981), Presses Universitaires de France, 2004.

Pascale Goetschel describes here the history of national drama centers from 1945 to 1981. Her work focuses on the genesis of decentralization policies in the theater field and the history of companies, producers, plays and audience search. She thus shows that public theater was protected in order to enhance access to culture from a social and geographical point of view -and avoid Paris domination. This has been more remarkable since the Front Populaire.

The books delivers a meticulous analysis of the founding years of decentralization and Jeanne Laurent's role. It also describes the steps that followed that encountered a break time and a new breath, thanks to Andre Malraux and the Minister of Culture.

This contribution to the history of national drama centers is important and emphasizes the fact that, when decentralization began, innovation on stages barely existed. The first national drama centers and theaters that were dedicated to creation were estranged from each other. Indeed, the latter emphasized an avant-garde aesthetics, while the first national drama centers sought to get the novice audience closer. This situation changed in the 1960's. The national drama centers became full-fledged local institutions and got even more power in the 1970's, as they created a network.a

 

From a social-historical point of view, one of the book's most interesting pages are the ones who deal with the relationship between the audience and the first national drama centers. The latter organize many surveys in order to know the audience better and get their opinion on the shows.. They send reporters who relate the audience's points of view. However, the results are not convincing. Professionals think that the reporters' opinions are deplorable. The latter criticize the facts that swear words appear in a play by John Osborne and that a play by Shakespeare is too long. Back in 1958-59, « La Comédie de l'Est » was on tour with its play Andromaque. Hubert Guignoux, its director, expressed edifying words « I am desperate because not even a third of the audience has paid attention ». He also deplored that the play was performed before a too young audience « whose reactions were too noisy sometimes and disturbed the actors. » First, they were disturbed, then they were annoyed and later on, they progressively became fearful when 50 young people showed. It is thus understandable that, since the 1960's, artists have tried to change their audience while keeping public money.