1834. Nicolaï Gogol was only 25 years old when he wrote The Diary of a Madman. Under his pen, Poprishchin is an unimportant civil servant whose life is played out between routine and modest solitary pleasures. This all changes the day when he falls for Sophie, his boss’s daughter. The love is a mirror, which reflects to him his miserable condition. The irrepressible need arises to invent an “other”, to become a man worthy of the elusive beauty. Frustration soon gives way to madness and in his delirious search for identity, he becomes King of Spain under the title of Ferdinand VIII. But reality catches up with fiction, and it is to the asylum that Popritchine is brought by those he believes to be his subjects.
The son of a civil servant, himself a small ministerial official, Gogol seems to use Poprishchin like a puppet on which to experiment with different roles and destinies. To scare himself? To make himself laugh? (humour, that formidable weapon so dear to the author). To turn his own life into a script?
An absurd tale, The Diary of a Madman recalls this quest for ’appearance’ that has not aged a bit. This frantic need to exist, to play a role in society, even if it means fantasizing our lives. Translating this major work on stage are two actors and a puppet, a sort of avatar, a multiple body that opens onto all possibilities. Natacha Belova rediscovers the complicity of Tita Iacobelli with whom she had conceived Tchaïka (best solo on stage at the 2019 Maeterlinck Awards).