At Avignon Festival, Resisting the Far Right

There are two sides to Tiago Rodrigues, the Portuguese director who has led the Avignon Festival since last year. One — gentle, introspective, given to dissecting intimate human conflicts — has long been evident in his stage productions. That includes “Hecuba, Not Hecuba,” his latest premiere in Avignon, in which a mother fights for justice after her son is mistreated by a state institution.

On the other side, Rodrigues has also turned out to be a combative, politically outspoken leader for the French festival, a marquee event on the international theater calendar. Tension is running high in France since the far-right National Rally party came out ahead in the first round of snap parliamentary elections last weekend, and Rodrigues’s response was forceful: Avignon, he told the broadcaster France Info, would become a “festival of resistance.”

On Thursday, Rodrigues pulled together a last-minute night of programming aimed at “mobilizing against the far right” ahead of the second round of voting this Sunday. After a performance of Angélica Liddell’s “Dämon: El Funeral de Bergman,” the Cour d’Honneur, Avignon’s biggest stage, was given over to willing artists, politicians and union leaders from 1 a.m. to 6 a.m.

The choreographer Boris Charmatz opened the evening with 100 or so dancers who performed a group reinterpretation of “Revolutionary,” a defiant 1922 dance by Isadora Duncan. JoeyStarr, a French rapper, recited a poem by Léon-Gontran Damas.

Despite the late hour, the nearly 2,000 seats were packed, and a roar filled the air when Rodrigues, whose father was an antifascist activist in Portugal, finally appeared onstage. “My name is Tiago Rodrigues, and I work for the Avignon Festival,” he said, modestly. “This is a night of democratic union, of strength and hope.”

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