Personal twist to drama about pedophilia in the Church

By Céline Hoyeau
LaCroix International
July 10, 2019

Laurent Martinez

Timely story of abuse is an uncomfortable spectacle because it finally exorcises the writer's trauma 40 years after it happened

"This gift is not shown, it is not shared, it is not talked about, out of modesty, out of shame, out of fear of the eyes of others."

This "gift" is the abuse Gabriel suffered at the hands of a priest at the age of 8, a gift that poisons his adult life and the relationship he is trying to build with Camille.

Their story intersects with the stories of two other characters, Father François and Sister Blandine, while the nun tries to open the priest's eyes to the drama of pedophilia, convinced that "true indifference is not to not look but to feel nothing."

The choice of this heavy subject is not a theatrical opportunity for its author, Laurent Martinez. That is because his drama "Sorry?" is being staged as part of Avignon's "Off" Festival and whose main role he plays, is first of all his story.

An 'inspiring' show, to help others talk

It is the story of a businessman living near Cannes who gives up everything at 48, his company and family, to "go out and meet himself" and train at a theatre in Paris.

Midlife crisis? For 40 years, Martinez had carried a piercing wound deep inside him. Until spring 2018, that is, when in his second year at the Cours Florent drama school, he had "carte blanche" to create a mini-spectacle and finally launched himself, at the very time of the abuse crisis in the Church, into the writing of his drama.

"The theatre has brought things up. I understood that if I wanted to play the role of the actor, I had to free myself from what, in me, could hinder the feelings of my character," he says.

After this first run in front of visibly moved students and teachers Martinez, who had contacted the Lyon-based association La Parole libérée, decided to go "a step further" and create a show that is "inspiring, to help others talk."

The writing of this show, which is part-documentary, part-drama, led him to seek answers to his questions within another association, the Blue Angel, which leads discussion groups where victims and pedophiles meet.

"I had a strange feeling when I arrived. Fears came up," the actor admits.

A native of Lyon but now a Parisian, Martinez does not know if the priest who assaulted him at the age of 8 is still alive.

At that time, his parents informed the bishop, who moved the priest to a different place.

"I always said I wasn't interested in knowing but it was a false excuse," says Martinez. "I was not yet ready."

Talking spaces for pedophiles

Nowadays, the 50-year-old actor has a new-found calmness.

"Talking about it has allowed me to recognize and accept the weight of the trauma," he says.

With this first piece, which questions the topic of abuse with nuance as opposed to outright denunciation, he hopes to be able to "facilitate the lifting of taboos."

"The Catholic Church is incriminated and I am involved because it is my history, but there are so many abuses in the world of sport, education, in families...," he explains.

Too close to the subject to be easy to watch but utterly convincing, the message of "Sorry?" is sometimes overbearing. But Olivier Wendell-Douglas' performance as Father François, accompanied by some ingenious revelations, is above all a sober, restrained show and gives free rein to the spoken word. Its goal is to stimulate the debate about how to end abuse once and for all.

"It's easy to condemn pedophiles, but it doesn't help," notes Martinez. "Pedocriminals, of course, must be treated by the courts but repenting pedophiles must also be able to find spaces to talk to get help."

The actor expresses the wish that the Archbishop of Avignon, or another representative of the archdiocese, will respond to his invitation and participate in the discussion that begins at the end of the play every evening.


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