Eric-Emmanuel Schmitt, „Frederick or The Crime Boulevard (Frederick ou le Boulevard du Crime)”, Ateneum Theatre in Warsaw


This is the third Polish premiere for the Ateneum Theatre – after „The Libertine” (about Denis Diderot) and „Don Juan on Trial” a play by French dramaturge and philosophy lecturer Eric-Emmanuel Schmitt. The hero of the dramatic melody „Frederick or the Crime Boulevard” made the author of Frederick, Lemaitre, one of the biggest actors of nineteenth century Paris. The action takes place behind the scenes of a theatre on the Crime Boulevard. This name stuck to the Boulevard du Temple in Paris, where numerous theatres were located in the epoch of romanticism. Schmitt wrote „Frederick, or the Crime Boulevard” especially for Jean-Paul Belmondo, who played Lemaitre for several seasons. The Director Wojciech Adamczyk placed Piotr Fronczewski in this role and it is hard to imagine a better choice. Credibly speaking, the role of the Paris star could only be played by someone who had found the taste of fame and love of the audience. Without a doubt, Piotr Fronczewski is just such a person. Similarly to Belmondo, he possesses the roguish attraction of a „beloved scoundrel” along with the exceptional vis comica and ease of acting transformations. The cabaret experience also helped out Fronczewski. In one of the first scenes he appeared as a buffo, escaping police agents with bravado, showing up in Lemaitre’s dressing room close behind the injured protestor. The author also gave the hero the opportunity to remember the roles of a great repertoire in the delicately drawn love scenes, when as an elderly man he succumbed to the whispers of Amor, responding to the love confessions of beautiful, young Berenika, a woman with an aristocratic background, daughter of the Police Minister (played by subtle and talented debutante Magdalena Górska). The fascinating scenes with the participation of Fronczewski – Lemaitre could only take place owing to the successful cooperation of the entire crew. The self certain stage star, Ms. George, wonderfully played by Ewa Wiśniewska, and Precieuse – Magdalena Wócick striving to take her place, though possessing much less talent. Charming stage figures were created by Krzysztof Tyniec as the natural impresario Harel, and Jan Kociniak as the supplier of Cussonet’s awkward lines. Jan Matyjaszkiewicz playing the soft-witted Count of Pillement turned out to be a pearl, ineffectively trying to revenge on Frederick for humiliating his graphomanic drama. The intelligently written, erudite tearful comedy features outstanding performers at the Ateneum Theatre, superbly directed by Wojciech Adamczyk. Laughter and emotion in a wonderful performance. I recommend it. (RZECZPOSPOLITA)
It would not be an exaggeration to state that the talented French dramaturge Eric-Emmanuel Schmitt has become naturalised for good in the Ateneum Theatre. With pleasure we have already watched „The Libertine” and later „Don Juan on Trial” (without pleasure but this has to be attributed to the author’s debut), we did not watch „Enigma Variations” (successfully shown on TV Theatre) but now we can go see „Frederick or the Crime Boulevard”. And it is worth it. Schmitt tells about a boulevard theatre, showing its wretched and at the same time noble life from behind the scenes, choosing Frederick Lemaitre as the hero, a known French actor, who in the 1830s reigned over the French boulevard, particularly on the so-called Paris Crime Boulevard. Schmitt treats the original with liberty, sometimes with imagination, tells the romance adventures of the actor with a young aristocrat, conjectures a dramatic story about the conflict of the boulevard with authorities, making that almost the heart of opposition and a winged Pegasus at the same time, but it is irrelevant how much actual truth there is. After all this is creative truth, a story about the popular theatre, which loved by the public maybe gives back more than any other play, while issuing a moral certificate to the theatre itself more than it deserves. So the main hero relates, carrying on an argument with the police minister: „Educated people always have the views of the previous generations. Among our audience half is illiterate, but they are the first to accept new ideas without prejudice.” Sounding like a French version of Gombrowicz considerations about farm hands, only that our Gombrowicz mocked and for this …. Whether Schmitt was correct or accurate is not so important, although it is worth seeing, how attractively he tailored his play and how ideally it fits our Wisła, Warsaw boulevard. The Ateneum does not avoid the boulevard repertoire, rather it presents spectacles for people, giving relaxation and moments of joy. Someone will say – what kind of theatre is this, so minimalist. But this performance convinces us just how important this is, especially on stage, which talks about itself in the presence of the public. The director found in Piotr Fronczewski an ideal performer of the lead role – after all this is the king of the Ateneum, an artist with a huge personal repertoire and continuing to perform outstandingly in shows with a wide audience, and even more so an artist with cabaret renown. In the performance in the role of Frederick he finds his alter ego, and can think over his roles, sometimes even parody, quoting them (the echo of Cyran comes out the loudest). Sometimes – consciously – intolerably mannered, in order to show his tired face and torn heart. A very impressive and credible role, at the same time full of charm and sense of humour. The entire cast partners with Fronczewski – there is no role here of an uncontrolled episode, everyone has their moment, even Tomasz Kozłowicz appearing almost without any lines, receives applause and murmurs, so accurately capable of using the moment to interest viewers in the character of the policeman in an embarrassing situation. Gaining the most stage attention include George played by Ewa Wiśniewska – a heroine in the great style, malicious and defenceless, waiting for her small bit of luck, Precieuse played by Magda Wócik – an actor with a small head and a small heart trying to make it against all odds, Harel played by Krzysztof Tyniec – a pert theatre businessman, a kind of impostor, not too smart, but in love with the theatre. There is also the cohesive, somewhat „service” role of the ubiquitous Antoine played by Marian Glinka, who shows up dozens of times on stage as the not too clever stage manager, but loyal to the theatre in life and death. Finally there are delightful episodes: count Jan Matyjaszkiewicz – administrator of the theatrical house and incompetent dramaturge and Jan Kociniak in the role of stage debutante Cussonet – a classic graphomaniac with Olympic ambitions. I hope the remaining unmentioned actors will forgive me, who surrendered with devotion to the magic of this simple story about the street – theatre, who always kept the public in mind and for this reason was and remains liked so much. (TRYBUNA)