Jean-Louis Barrault

Definition

Theater

  • (1910 - 94) French actor, director, and manager, who studiedacting under Charles Dullin (making his debut in Dullin's 1931 productionof Volpone) and mime under Etienne Decroux. In 1940 Barraultjoined the Comédie-Française, where he met his futurewife, the actress Madelaine Renaud, with whom he formed (1946) theRenaud-Barrault Company at the Théâtre Marigny. Barraultand Renaud remained at the Marigny for a decade, during which theyestablished a high reputation with a broad range of productions. In1956 the company moved to the Théâtre Sarah Bernhardt,before subsequently moving to the Palais-Royal. From 1959 to 1968Barrault was director of the Théâtre National de l'Odéon,which was renamed the Théâtre de France during this period.Many of his productions at this time were of plays by such contemporarydramatists as Beckett and Ionesco.

    During the student riots of 1968 Barrault allowed protestorsto occupy the Théâtre de France, which they used as aheadquarters and as a forum for debate. When this led to his dismissal,Barrault returned to the independent theater, where he staged a productionof Rabelais (1969), his own adaptation of Gargantua andPantagruel. In 1970 Barrault helped Peter Brook to establishthe International Centre for Theatre Research in Paris.

    From 1980 onwards Barrault was based at the Théâtredu Rond Point, Paris, where he staged both new productions and revivalsof his earlier successes, including a 1985 production of Corneille'sLe Cid. Barrault also appeared in numerous films, most notablyMarcel Carne's epic of 19th-century theatrical life Les Enfantsdu Paradis (1944), in which he played the great mime artist Baptiste.

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