Biography of Jean-Louis Barrault (1910-1994)

Actor, director and French producer, especially known for his work of mimo. He was born in Le Vésinet, near Paris, in 1910, and died on January 22, 1994.

With a vital energy and a passion for the theatre, Barrault, who was disciple of Artaud and his "theatre of cruelty", attempted to make a total theatre, opened to the body language and the possibilities of expression, as well as all types of playwriting and everyone. Barrault studied and taught art, and attended the École du Louvre, Paris, until 1931. That year he enrolled in the school of theatre, Théâtre de l'Atelier, of Charles Dullin, where he remained until 1935. Then he devoted himself with particular enthusiasm to the study of the techniques of pantomime together with Étienne Decroux. His first show, Autour d'une Mère, based on a work of Faulkner, it was essentially gestural, and caused the admiration of Artaud. His staging of Numance (1937) made him known to Claudel, very important author in his later career. Between 1940 and 1946 first as a pensionnaire, was integrated in the Comédie Française, and then as a sociétaire, debuting as Rodrigo in Le Cid. He rode there works as Le Soulier de satin (satin shoe) by Claudel, and Phèdre, Racine. In parallel, Barrault took part in classic film as meat film Les enfants du paradis (children of paradise, 1944) in which appeared as Jean-Gaspard Debureau, a MIME of the 19th century. In 1946 he and his wife, the actress Madeleine Renaud, left the Comédie and formed the company Renaud-Barrault at the Théâtre Marigny in Paris, where they stayed for ten years. His interpretation of Hamlet in the translation of André Gidewas famous. He was appointed director of the Odéon-Théâtre de France in 1959 and the Théâtre des Nations in 1965, both sponsored by the French Government. Throughout this period, Barrault was a real repertoire on the criteria of the stability of the company, reruns and the alternation, and his most notable performances were: Hamlet, Les Fausses Confidences (1946), Le Procès (1948), L'Orestie (1955); Claudel works such as, successively, Partage de midi, L' échange, Christophe Colomb, Le Soulier de satin and Tête d'Or (1959). It also assembled works of more avant-garde as Le Personnage combattant, of Vauthier (1956) and Rhinoceros (1960), of Ionesco, and invited other directors. Roger Blin rode Oh les beaux jours by Beckett (1963) and Les paravents, Genet (1966), which caused much controversy; Maurice Béjart directed an experiment of total theatre, La Tentation de saint Antoine (1967). Between 1966 and 1968 took over also the Théâtre des Nations, and there led to Jerzy Grotowski, the Living Theatre, Peter Brook, and the Teatro Campesino. After a dispute about its support to the students who had occupied the theater in May 1968, Barrault resigned as director of the Théâtre des Nations, and together with his wife, returned to the Renaud-Barrault company. In 1968 he rode Rabelais and Jarry, at the Elysee-Montmartre (ancient Boxing Hall), and went through the Orsay before, in 1981, at the Théâtre du Rond Point (today Théâtre Renaud-Barrault) a mobile theatre which had been build. In this last period of his artistic creation mounted shows from a dramaturgy of texts not theatrical, as Ainsi parlait Zarathoustra (1974), Les Nuits de Paris (1976), Zadig (1979), and L'Amour de L'Amour (based on texts by Apuleius, La Fontaine and Molière, 1981). After three major tours, the Renaud-Barrault company acquired international fame.Although Barrault is famous internationally for his work in MIME, his reputation as a director and as an actor covers broader fields. For him, the theater is an act of love; love text, that makes you surrender to his character and his public. Do not understand a theatre that divide, but rather seeks communion with the audience. Why the texts selected for mounting talked about the passion and life in all its forms, especially through the body language, that he magnified throughout his career. The importance it attached to the actor, "affective athlete" as defined by their teacher Antonin Artaud, didn't you use the greatest number of traditional and contemporary theatrical media (masks and dances; lights, sound, film), renewing theatrical images. His desire for a total theatre explains the eclectic repertoire was devoted to that, and that spanned all genres and the history of the theatre, from Greek tragedy to the theatre of boulevard, passing by Shakespeare and the theatre of the absurd. This trait is his interest in the scene carrying complete works (Rabelais, Jarry, Restif). His most fruitful contact was with Claudel, whose work unveiled in essential way, and did not drawback to open the doors of your company to other directors in most daring creations.He also directed productions for the Metropolitan Opera of New York, and their companies made tours throughout the United States. His books include reflections on the theatre (1959) and the theater of Jean-Louis Barrault (1961), expressing his total devotion to the theater.


BARRAULT, J-l.., Souvenirs pour demain, Paris, Seuil, 1972.

-, Saisir le présent, Paris, R. Laffont, 1984.

FRANK, A., J.-L.. Barrault, Paris, Seghers, 1971.

JOMASONG, j., & AA.VV., Le Théâtre en France, 2 vols., Paris, Arnaud Collin, 1989.

MIGNON, Paul-Louis, history of contemporary theater, Madrid, Guadarrama, 1973.