Each year actors descend on the village for a week or so and perform little plays in various locations. Barrie described scenes performed in archways beneath the château and in residents' gardens. It sounded like great fun to us.
(The above two photos are courtesy of the Paysages Nocturnes website.)
When we planned our holidays for 2008 we made sure we would be chez nous for the Tour de France, the 14th July and also the Paysages Nocturnes. These would take place throughout the second week of our holiday and we thought it would be great to do something so memorable on our last evening before we came home.
That year, the format was changed for some reason - I seem to remember it having something to do with the ongoing building work at the château. Instead of the plays taking place all over the village, they were to be in the salle des fêtes. Nevertheless it sounded like a brilliant way to spend the last evening of our holiday.
What happened was this : the main event in the salle des fêtes was announced by loud and strange music being played through speakers in the street. The audience gathered behind the Mairie and the actors came along to mingle with them (and drink a glass of wine). Some of the actors were professionals and others were villagers dressed up and taking part in the play. We recognised the Maire, kitted out in a woman's dress, pearls, wellington boots and with pigtails in his hair.
After a while, the actors gathered up their audience and everyone marched along the street to the salle des fêtes, passing through huge red curtains draped between the buildings. The same music played and everyone hummed along as they walked. The music was not a recognisable tune as such, just a few bars of plinkety-plonk music, but it was very infectious and for days I couldn't get it out of my head.
Along the entrance to the salle des fêtes stalls had been erected to form a narrow passage; there were little booths on either side representing various arts and activities. It was extremely well done. I apologise for the sad lack of photos but at that time I had never even heard of blogging so had no need to take my camera with me. I really wish I had as it was superb.
Once we got inside, however, things went pear-shaped. Seating was provided in ramps and rows along both sides of the floor with a stage at either end. We chose our seats badly. Nearer the door and a means of escape would have been much better. To say we found the performance difficult to fathom is rather an understatement.
Our French at that stage was not good enough to understand more than the occasional word. The cast were dressed to represent ordinary people in a dysfunctional family (or village possibly) and we think the whole thing was some sort of fable rehashed to represent modern family life. We think. There was a lot of singing and dancing and whole scenes seemed to be repeated over and over. It was all very peculiar.
We tried to keep up and enjoy it at first but it was hard work and we gave up. The French loved it. This was obvious as they hooted with laughter at things we didn't understand. We on the other hand, had to stifle chuckles at things that looked very funny to us but were obviously very serious. One outburst of laughter from us earned us a few black looks from other audience members so we decided to shut up. We had to sit through two and a half hours of totally incomprehensible dialogue but didn't want to be the only English to get up and leave, very publicly. We would have had to disturb a lot of people to make our escape and all the audience was in full view of everyone else, including the actors and of course, the Maire. In his wellington boots and pearls. We decided to stay put and put it down to experience.
Once it was over, we all filed out and marched back to the Mairie with the actors, through the curtains. It was still a very warm evening and we all clapped as the actors took their bows and made their speeches on the steps of the Mairie. It had been a very wierd evening but all in all we had enjoyed it. If it had been two hours shorter we would have enjoyed it even more. I know that's not fair. If our French had been better I'm sure we would have got more out of it.
Last year (2009) the format was changed again. Most of the proceedings happened in a marquee on the playing fields, well away from the centre of the village. This did not go down too well with some people who felt it should have been in locations around the village as before. There was also catering for visitors on site so this naturally annoyed the local restaurant and bar owners no end.
There was a little play taking place in a garden not far from us but the title suggested it would be completely beyond us so we gave it all a miss. Maybe we'll do the Paysages Nocturnes again this year.