How do you break free from the diktat of manhood to achieve the happiness of being yourself? To sum up Mickaël Délis’s show in this way is to take the risk of scaring away the reader (and potential spectator) tired of the gender issues that agitate our time. Still, don’t run away! Because Le Premier Sexe, an introspective solo gem, is neither militant nor tearful, but earthy, romantic and wonderfully written.
In form, the story of this emancipation borrows well-known codes: on a set without decor, a single actor dressed in black, with a stool and chalk as accessories, interprets multiple characters punctuating a personal story (parents, friends, teachers , shrink…). But, basically, Mickaël Délis, skilfully staged by Vladimir Perrin, has the gift of transforming his journey as a little boy, teenager and man into so many intimate experiences that exalt a universal quest for identity.
The result is both funny, touching and extremely sincere, thanks to this actor’s ability to alternate characters (including the unforgettable university professor who wonderfully sums up the essay XY, male identity, Elisabeth Badinter – Gallimard, 1949 –, but also the wildly eccentric mother) and thoughts for everyone on how to build and think for yourself.
This theatrical adventure – saved from many cancellations due to the Covid-19 pandemic – comes at the right time for its author. “This show would have been impossible ten years ago, because it is not a therapy, but the fruit of a therapy”, he summarizes. To meet Mickaël Délis is to meet a man with the false air of Vincent Dedienne, voluble, smiling and really “well in [his] pumps”. At 39, this “cantor of analysis” needed this necessary “long time”. It allowed him to acquire the confidence to be, for the first time, alone on stage and to “overcome the anger” of the violence experienced by the injunctions of masculinity to replace it with humor.
“In a narcissistic outburst”
The construction of this show began in 2018. That year, Mickaël Délis had “carte blanche” at the Parisian theater of La Loge. “I then remembered the shock that had been caused in me by reading The Second Sex, by Simone de Beauvoir. Why not do the counterpart, First Sex? », Far, very far from the pamphlet of the same name written by Eric Zemmour.
To avoid the didactic pitfall and make the subject more accessible, Mickaël Délis chooses to retain the unfolding of volume II of the Beauvoirian essay, i.e. the lived experience, but in a male version. This former literary student (hypokhâgne, khâgne, English option, third cycle of Anglo-Saxon literature) nourished himself with multiple readings, from Beauvoir to Despentes, from Welzer-Lang to Olivia Gazalé, etc., and refined his only- on stage under the gaze of his twin brother, David Délis, musician and graphic designer.
In the Délis family, established near the Arcachon basin, everyone is an artist. Sculptor and designer father, ceramist and photographer mother. “Initially, I saw them struggle so much that I didn’t want to be like them. So I studied with the idea of becoming a teacher-researcher,” he recalls. But a small advertisement pasted on a wall, “Become a star, make a book”, makes him branch off, “in a narcissistic impulse”, he says smiling, from the Sorbonne to the conservatory of dramatic arts of the 20th arrondissement of Paris.
His first texts were selected by the Théâtre du Rond-Point as part of the interconservatory competition. But there is no question for him of being a “poor” mountebank. A multi-talented artist, he multiplies profitable institutional films and advertising scripts that shelter him to develop his own pieces (
The First Sex is not a show about homosexuality, but the autobiography of a liberated man whose story can allow everyone to identify with this path towards emancipation. Cleverly produced (rarely a white shirt as a simple accessory has offered so many possibilities), terribly funny without being immodest, this show is quite simply good and allows a salutary reflection, but without injunctions, on the deconstruction of gender stereotypes.
To those who are frightened by all these words, the story of Mickaël Délis is a beautiful introduction, generous and without “headache” with, as a bonus, a nice theatrical gesture. The First Sex is the story of a man who has thought a lot about what it means to be a man.