August 1, 2021

Romain Bouteille, an actor who didn’t want to depend on anyone

With the death of Romain Bouteille, a part of the history of the French comedy scene is going away. That of café-theaters created in troop, with the energy of resourcefulness, in an anarcho-libertarian and community spirit. Author, actor and humorist, co-founder, notably with Coluche and director Sotha, of the famous Café de la Gare in Paris, Romain Bouteille died on Monday, May 31, at the age of 84, at Corbeil-Essonnes hospital. “For some time, Romain had kidney failure. It was respiratory failure that prevailed ”, said, in a message to AFP, his companion, Saïda Churchill, also an actress.

In June 2019, on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of Café de la Gare, this unclassifiable artist received The world aux Grands Solistes, a 47-seat minitheater that it opened in 2014 in Etampes (Essonne). With his banter and his mischievous child’s gaze behind his eternal glasses, he plunged back into his memories with relish: “It was freedom and comfort. I knew being an actor was the only thing I could put up with. The Café de la Gare is one of the rare times when we were able to do what we wanted, where we did not depend on anyone to play. The whole troop was working not because someone had asked them to work but for the future. Our doctrine was: to make a theater that does not exist, to go against all the habits of the official theater, without taking care of the tastes of the people. “

Allergic to any form of authority

Born March 24, 1937, in Paris, Romain Bouteille was uncomfortable at school, allergic to any form of authority. As a teenager, he was placed in a medico-pedagogical college near Chantilly (Oise), and ended up wandering around in a few drama classes, convinced that the profession of actor is perfect for a guy without training who prefers the side. “Anarcho-DIY-funny” at “Metro-work-sleep”. “My artistic vocation took shape around 1955 under the angle: to find a job which makes it possible to get up at any time and does not suppose no diploma, neither real work, nor obedience”, he liked to tell. Multiplying the auditions with varying degrees of success, he won a few cachets in small Parisian cabarets where he sympathized with the young Michel Colucci, who would become Coluche.

Also read (archive from 2019): Theater: the Café de la Gare sees dwarves everywhere

Both dream of independence, of a place of their own, without a leader, where everything would be shared equally. With a bunch of friends – Sotha, Miou-Miou, Patrick Dewaere, Henri Guybet, Jean-Michel Haas, Catherine Mitry – they all unearthed and patched up an old fan factory, Passage d’Odessa, near Montparnasse station. So in June 1969 the Café de la Gare adventure was launched. “First and last theater in real anarchy”, summarized Romain Bouteille. Thanks to word of mouth, this band of sixty-eight entertainers attracts crowds with its satirical sketches, despite uncomfortable bleachers where 180 spectators crowd. Key words: deconnade, derision and provocation. At the time, Romain Bouteille frequented the editorial staff of the newspaper Hara Kiri. He is at a good school. Collective writing, sharing of the recipe in the evening and a motto that hits the mark: “It’s ugly, it’s dirty, it’s in the wind. ”

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