French theater loses a legend: Remembering Roland Bertin, 1930-2024

Actor Roland Bertin during the Molière award for supporting role for the play “Coriolanus”, April 26, 2009 in Paris. STEPHANE DE SAKUTIN / AFP

“I want to continue playing until the end as one seeks intoxication, I want to die drunk on the theater, drunk, drunk. And dying on stage, oh yes, I dream of it. » Destiny did not grant Roland Bertin, who died quietly in Pont-L’Abbé (Finistère) on February 19, at the age of 93, in his Breton retreat, where he had taken refuge for a good ten years. years, too tired to continue roaming the plateaus.

With him, French theater loses one of its greatest actors, one of the most singular, in whom the alliance between gargantuan gluttony and extreme subtlety formed an unprecedented cocktail. “Roland Bertin is an actor with every fiber of his body. But above all it is one of the very few which gives access to metaphysical abysses”said Patrice Chéreau of him, whose friend he was, and with whom he played in several legendary shows, from Peer Gynt (1981) to quartet (1985).

Like the pastry chef Ragueneau in Cyrano de Bergerac – a role he played in Jean-Paul Rappeneau’s film in 1990 – he could have said: “That’s because I’m a poet, too…” Of this dancing ogre, of this Pantagruel balancing on a trapeze wire, theater lovers keep in their hearts many indelible memories, whether The Life of Galileoby Brecht, directed by Antoine Vitez (1989), from his memorable Sganarelle in the Dom Juan directed by Jacques Lassalle (1993), from his Shakespearean surveys – Titus Andronicus, Coriolanus… –, or his long companionship with the author Nathalie Sarraute.

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Appetite for tradition as well as adventure

The theater was his kingdom, but he also crossed with his strange, uncomfortable or painful presence, films whose quest he espoused: Mistressby Barbet Schroeder (1975), The Flesh of the Orchid (1975) or The Wounded Man (1983) by Patrice Chéreau, Mr Klein (1976) or Trout (1982), by Joseph Losey. Roland Bertin had as much appetite for tradition as for adventure, and this appetite came to him very early, after a wild childhood in the little hollow roads of the Morvan, within a family of peasants and stonemasons. .

Born on November 16, 1930, the theater fell into his lap at the age of 11, as if it were obvious: “My older sister took me to see Polyeucte, by Corneille, at the Odéon, and Imaginary sick, by Molière, at the Comédie-Française, he remembered during a meeting in 2004. It’s strange, I immediately felt at home. The mystery of the red curtain, first… And the music of words. The words, I immersed myself in them, I spent my life with them…”

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2024-02-20 04:04:21
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