This fourth wall we break it from the moment we consider the spectator

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In his new show, “La Claque”, Fred Radix brings the profession of clapper back to life through a musical show that largely involves the public.
After having restored the reputation of the whistle in his previous show (Le Sifflet in 2017), Fred Radix is ​​interested this time in a forgotten profession that has completely disappeared from theaters, that of clapper. In his show La Claque, offered until March 28 at the La Gaîté Montparnasse theater in Paris, the actor and director revives a tradition that dates back to the 18th century. At that time, the slap brought together people – clappers – hired by theater managers to mingle with the public in order to greet the show with applause or, on the contrary, discredit it with whistles and boos.

An interactive and musical show. This is Alice Noureux and Fred Radix. (France 3 Paris Ile-de-France)

One night snappers
With these two acolytes, Alice Noureux and Guillaume Collignon, Fred Radix has imagined a show that allows spectators to participate actively by becoming one-night-clappers.

The actor and director puts himself in the shoes of Auguste Levasseur, a cheerleader, who two hours before a show, is abandoned by his cheerleaders. Fauvette, an accordionist (Alice Noureux) and Dugommier, the theater manager (Guillaume Collignon), will have to find replacements to save the performance which is to take place the same evening. A plot that will give rise to great interaction sessions with the public.

One way to break down this “fourth wall” which usually separates the audience from the artists on stage: “This fourth wall, we break it from the moment we consider the spectator, underlines Guillaume Collignon. done, à la Comedia dell’arte, as a clown. We each come from three different worlds and we have all broken the fourth wall!”

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success makers
According to the site, the practice of the slap has its origins in Antiquity. “When the Emperor of Rome Nero was performing, five thousand of his soldiers saluted his performance with a sung eulogy”. The practice then developed in the 16th century with the poet Jean Dorat. When his plays were presented, he bought tickets which he gave to spectators in exchange for a promise of applause. The system grew more and more until it became “official”. In 1820, in Paris, an agency intended to supply and manage clickers was created.

In the 19th century, contracts were established between the cheerleader and the management of a theatre. On the site, we learn that in 1830, “most of the theaters in Paris had a permanent slap, the purpose of which was no longer (in general) to bring down a play, but on the contrary to ensure The cheerleader ends up having a very enviable power and status: he is himself remunerated in free tickets that he sells on the day of the performance, to which is added the money that he extracts from actors and playwrights, as well as a regular salary, if he works for a state theatre.”

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Hierarchy of clappers
Even within the clappers, there was a sort of hierarchy. There was the cheerleader, but also the ticklish clappers who maintain a good atmosphere and launch small applause; the commissioner learned the text of the play by heart then between the acts underlined the good points of the show to his seat neighbors; the laughers and the mourners, had to play a defined emotion at key moments. As for the bisseurs, they demanded encores (“bis!”) at the end of the show.

This profession officially ended in 1902 at the Comédie Française.

The three actors of “La Claque” (from left to right): Alice Noureux, Fred Radix and Guillaume Collignon. (DR)
The three actors of “La Claque” (from left to right): Alice Noureux, Fred Radix and Guillaume Collignon. (DR)
We find it despite everything even today in another form: that of the room drivers, very popular in television programs where they are responsible for setting the mood.

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Abdul Mia