One of the most unexpected productions of the Paris season is the stage adaptation of Amelie Nothomb's best-seller Hygiene de l'assassin currently running at the Petit Theatre de Paris and starring Nathalie Cerda and Jean-Claude Dreyfus.
Amelie Nothomb made a sensational literary debut in 1992 when Hygiene de l'assasin was published and became an instant hit. Hygiene de l'assassin tells the dark story of writer Pretextat Tach, an old and obese Nobel Prize winner living with a terrible secret. Knowing he is about to die of a cancer, he accepts to invite three journalists, one after another, but only the third one will resist Tach's obnoxiousness and will reveal his terrible past. One of the journalists simply gets sick by hearing Tach's eating habits.
Nothomb, when interviewed, is not reluctant to talk about her weird nutritional habits, precisly that she likes rotten fruits and drinks very strong black tea, which together with the disgusting things she writes about, makes her throw up regularly. This 29-year-old Belgium diplomat's daughter has aroused both scandal and admiration with her controversial books. Nothomb's novels should hit the United States this year.
The stage adaptation of Hygiene de l'Assassin recreates the dark atmosphere of Nothomb's novel, along with her obvious fascination with obesity and a clear disgust for the adult body. The outstanding performances of leads Jean-Claude Dreyfus and Nathalie Cerda will probably win them Moliere Award nominations for Best Actor and Actress in a Play.
Jean-Claude Dreyfus, who plays Pretextat Tach, has been familiar to film audiences from his appearances in movies such as Delicatessen directed by Caro and Jeunet (the latter having just directed Alien 4 starring Sigourney Weaver and Winona Ryder). Nathalie Cerda, who plays Nina, the only journalist who won't be defeated by Tach, burst into the French theatre world with her outstanding portrayal of Edith Piaf in the musical Piaf, je t'aime a couple of years ago. Her performance won her a Moliere Award of Best Newcomer and there was even talk for a while about a possible off-Broadway production of the show starring Cerda herself.
The novel Hygiene de l'assassin has been adapted by Pascal Lissilour. The play is directed by Didier Long and also features Olivier Pajot and Francis Renaud.
For tickets and information on Hygiene de l'assassin at the Petit Theatre de Paris, call 331 42 80 01 81.
-- By Stephane Ly-Cuong