You have to have seen a painting by Francis Bacon only once in your life for the memory of these bodies, flattened, twisted, swollen, almost decomposed on the canvas, to remain anchored in our memory. Few artists have been able to represent the cry of the human condition in this way. In such a powerful, brutal way. With a work that provokes a mixture of admiration and repulsion. “Indeed, Francis Bacon succeeded in making horror beautiful. We can call that, perhaps, the sublime,” explains Larry Tremblay in an interview.
The writer’s encounter with the painter’s work dates back a few years. In 2012 he published a collection of poetry, 158 fragments of an exploded Francis Bacon. A decade later, he published a novel freely inspired by the life of the Irish painter, with as a guideline his tormented relationship with George Dyer. “I left with a few true facts, and I imagined everything else,” says the author who refutes the term biographical novel. “Because the work remains the raw material of the novel”… And of its adaptation to the theatre.
final table of love will be premiered on Thursday evening at Usine C, under the direction of Angela Konrad, with Benoit McGinnis in the role of the painter, and Samuël Côté in that of his lover and model. It is more of a “condensation of the novel” than a real adaptation, qualifies the author. He wrote a suite of 20 short paintings to represent Bacon’s sensations and mental states. “It is the point of view of the latter that we will see, because the text is narrated (mainly) by the painter, explains Angela Konrad. Still haunted by the presence of the deceased, Bacon remembers his lover, as in an address to the dead. »
Destroy to create
The guiding principle of the novel – and of the play – is the destructive relationship between Francis and George. The couple had a troubled relationship for eight years; until Dyer’s suicide in 1971 in a hotel room in Paris, two days before the opening of Bacon’s retrospective at the Grand Palais. “The couple had a fairly toxic love affair. A sadomaso dynamic that has been reversed over time. Initially, Bacon wants to be hit, beaten by his lover. But then, it is he who will become the sadist and George his victim,” remarks Larry Tremblay.
The tragedy is that Bacon underestimated his lover’s fragility and dependency. “It is the encounter between two great solitudes, two fundamentally separated beings. The painter seized George’s flaw and stole it from him to put it on the canvas, ”explains the director. She underlines the paradox that this couple represents in their relationship between creation and destruction in art.
The theater of cruelty
“Enjoyment is closely linked to suffering in Bacon,” continues Tremblay. Enjoying and suffering does not satisfy him. My fictitious Francis tends towards fusion with the other to create a new sensation. A pressure of the flesh which wants to come out of the body. »
What also touches me is that Bacon is a witness of his time. In his thirties, he experienced the Second World War, then the discovery of the camps, of the Holocaust. This runs through the work with the notion of butchery, carcasses.
Angela Konrad, set designer
“In the history of art in Europe, there is a before and an after 1945. Like a break in the middle of the 20e century”, adds Konrad
His staging will be “sometimes brutal”, we warn. “We can not evacuate this cruelty in the work”, believes Konrad. She sees in it a “profane tragedy, a theater of cruelty”. “We are very close to Antonin Artaud,” notes Tremblay.
“I didn’t want to represent a painter painting in his studio, with his canvases hanging on the walls. And there will be no brush. Especially not ! This very intimate performance presented in front of 100 people in the small hall of Usine C remains her most radical work to date, she says. It’s already sold out this spring. It is therefore necessary to act quickly to reserve tickets for next September.
At Usine C from May 18 to 21, and as part of the Festival TransAmériques from May 1is to June 3. Extras at Usine C from September 5 to 16.
final table of love
Text and adaptation: Larry Tremblay
Director: Angela Konrad
With Samuel Côté and Benoit McGinnis