Opening Date : 13 june to 2 july 2017


Route du Champ de Manœuvre

75012 Paris

Reservations :  01 48 08 39 74 or www.epeedebois.com/billetterie-en-ligne/

Title : Polyeucte
Director : Ulysse Di Gregorio
Scenography : Benjamin Gabrié
Costume : Salvadore Mateu Andujar
Pictures : Franck Ferville


Polyeucte by Pierre Corneille.

In Armenia which is under the sway of imperial Rome, a young nobleman Polyeucte wedded to the Governor’s daughter is baptised in secret at the instigation of Nearque, his Christian friend.  Later, having been asked to witness a sacrifice to celebrate the return of a Roman general, he proclaims his faith and undertakes to smash the statues of the Pagan cult.

Neither the requests of his wife nor the supplications of his father-in-law will make him renounce his act.

During the winter of 1642-43, when Corneille brings his tragedy to the stage, the singularity of his martyr Polyeucte – inspired by the story of a Saint and following discreetly an Italian play – is to associate the Christian figure with the one of a hero.

‘If dying for one’s Prince is an illustrious fate, what would dying for one’s God evoke?’  Martyrdom is therefore a form of heroism.

But is Polyeucte’s iconoclastic violence a Christian act or is it fanatiscism as Voltaire thought?  And maybe this is what makes this play so relevant today.


What parallel can be found between the martydom of an Armenian lord of the 3rd Century which stands alone in the name of a unique God against the religious and political Roman Empire founded on ‘Polytheism’.  

Can we understand, share or admire the exaltation of a character who decides to sacrifice everything: love, career, honour and even life for a God who has only just appeared to him..

A character whose iconoclastic enthusiasm and wish of vengeance appears excessive.

One could think that Corneille’s Polyeucte a ‘Christian tragedy’ representing a devotion inspired by ‘counter reform’ and the religion that will soon be the foundation of rule by divine right is alien to today’s thinking – particularly in France where the state is definitely separated from the Church.  However, despite the appearances of excess and fanaticism, because of his revolt Polyeucte incarnates moral virtues relevant to today.

By his conversion, his violent and flamboyant act, by his sacrifice in the name of the truth, it shows a saintly heroism which converts minds and transform the world’s political order.

Even in our century do we not have familiar idols presented and adorned to be revered in front of which one’s prostrates oneself blindly?

Polyeucte can not only be defined by his moral and political beliefs as Corneille indicates in his prologue, ‘the tenderness of human love… mixed with the strength of the Divine’, confirming to a classical doctrine, the wish to instruct shown by human passions.

These are subtly magnified by Polyeucte’s moral rigour.  Neither reason nor threats, neither brutality nor tenderness or love, nothing can shake his steadfastness.

Taking into account all these facts, historical, moral and political, I wanted to present a Polyeucte of our times choosing sober scenery and costumes with an antique reference, a modernised delivery of the text while relaying the emotion resulting from exalted passions.  

In short, a modern Polyeucte faithful to the spirit given to him by the author and yet capable of moving today’s spectators.

I hope that they will appreciate the protrayal of a man whose soul opens itself to divine revelation and who, consumed by love sweeps others along in his enthusiastic madness.

Ulysse Di Gregorio


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