July 30, 2021

At Ateliers Berthier, a “Cherry Orchard” in post-Thatcherian England

Welcome to post-Thatcherian England, whose social fabric seems to be tearing more and more every day: it is Faith, Hope and Charity (faith, hope and charity), by Alexander Zeldin, which can be seen at Ateliers Berthier, in Paris. A spectacle not to be missed, so touching and fair it is, and artfully carved out of the very material of reality.

We discovered Alexander Zeldin in 2018, when he presented, for a few evenings, his play Love, which took him into the privacy of social suffering. Faith, Hope and Charity is in the same vein, since it is the third part of a trilogy started with Beyond Caring and continued with Love. With this latest opus, Alexander Zeldin, 36, spiritual son of Ken Loach and Peter Brook and nephew of Theodore Zeldin, the great British historian specializing in French passions, confirms that he is indeed inventing a new form of social realism.

Read the review (in 2018): “LOVE”, in the intimacy of social suffering

As in the two previous creations, the action takes place in a social center. Here is a food bank, where a generous woman, Hazel, cooks good meals for the needy. It has been more than twenty years that Hazel has held this home at arm’s length, with unbroken faith. But there, his world collapses. Its premises are taking water from all sides, and the town hall remains deaf to all its requests for help, leaving the field open to promoters, in ambush to buy the place and make it rentals for tourists.

End of a world

The play brings this end of a world to life, in a distant echo of La Cerisaie. An end which, as with Chekhov, will be both sad and joyful, because it will give way to the program clearly proposed by the title: faith, hope and charity. The action of Faith, Hope and Charity is entirely due to the mutual aid that will be put in place and in the relationships that will be woven between the people who frequent the home.

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At the very beginning, Mason tumbles, of whom we understand that he had some problems with life and with justice, and who will help Hazel to continue to welcome his usual proteges. There is Beth, a woman who has just had custody of her 4-year-old daughter, and her 16-year-old son, Marc. Tharwa and Tala, a Sudanese refugee and her teenage daughter. Bernard, who lives in the center without really saying it, no longer having a home. Carl, who is disabled, and more and more on his own. And a few others.

It is one of the secrets of this show to never be overwhelming and to be carried by a constant vitality and humor.

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