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Olivier Py Announces Festival d'Avignon Programme Amid Coronavirus Concerns (Includes Update)

Olivier Py Announces Festival d'Avignon Programme Amid Coronavirus Concerns (Includes Update)

UPDATE: The 2020 Festival d'Avignon has been cancelled. In an announcement posted on Twitter this past Monday the 13th, administrators claimed that they "shared in the hope for some time now that the Festival would be permitted, but the circumstances have forced a change in plans. Our work is now to preserve and create the future of the @FestivalAvignon."


With a backdrop of (as of this writing) West End theatres closed until late May, Broadway theatres closed until early June, and the cancellation of The Edinburgh Theatre Festival in August, artistic director Olivier Py announced the programme for this July's Festival d'Avignon. The director offered his rationale to persist in terms of the event's status as a public service, which contrasts with Edinburgh's commercial theatre market. This is not an unfair distinction, given Avignon's founding as a public works project following the Second World War, and significant public funding. However, this public funding, while generous, requires significant income from ticket sales to keep the Festival afloat. Canceling the Festival would be a historic and economically catastrophic event (the Festival was only cancelled once before, for a strike in 2003) with ramifications not only for the Festival, its administrators, and its artists, but also for the outlying region of Avignon and the Vaucluse, which relies on the Festival as a source of yearly income. While any comparison would be inexact, one can imagine the fallout from canceling Mardi Gras in New Orleans. In any event, the artistic director appeared online to offer his theme for this year's festival: Eros and Thanatos.

Eros and Thanatos are a mythological couple which represent love and death. This theme was decided on long before the advent of Coronavirus. 45 works from 25 countries are programmed into the 74th edition of the Festival d'Avignon. La Cour d'Honneur, The Festival's traditional main stage, will begin with a dance work by Dimitris Papaioannou, whose Great Tamer was brought to BAM this past year. Other productions include a Lithuanian Othello from director Oskaras Korsunovas, an adaptation of Sartre's Freud by Ivo van Hove, and a new work by Catalan theatre maker Angélica Liddell, who has a habit of pushing even Avignon's artistic boundaries.

Py says that he is taking the advice of health administrators very seriously, and will continue to take their advice over the coming weeks. Health officials will ultimately decide the outcome. Py is remaining flexible with everything, including the Festival dates, up for negotiation. A final verdict on the nature of this year's Festival can be anticipated sometime in the coming weeks.

Photo Credit: Thomas Samson

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