Review of Mademoiselle Bovary – An Original French Play

Victoria Decaux
3 May 2015

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Image credit: The French Society

 

Even though I arrived only 5 minutes after the doors had opened, the Barron Theatre was already full. A positive indicator of the play’s success but a bad sign for me since I could only find a seat in the back row… However I am thankful that I even had a seat considering that the French Society decided to sell more tickets than available chairs. Therefore some viewers had to sit on the stairs between the chairs, like students who arrive late to a busy lecture in School III. Despite this being good news for the play, it was not a very comfortable set-up for the viewers.

However, a few minutes after being seated, when the lights were dimmed and two of the actors appeared on stage, the first of many bursts of laughter was heard resonating within the small room. The various dynamics between the characters became quickly evident, notably those between the amusing duo of Mr. and Mme Rouault, whose relationship clearly highlighted the comic aspects of the play and concomitantly contrasted with the tragic relationship between Berte and Emile. However, this particular dynamic seemed highly exaggerated (strident cries from the maid, numerous disputes between Berte and Emile…) that it appeared more ridiculous than tragic. During my interview with Camille Bigot, writer and director of the production, she had informed me of her intention to incorporate different theatrical genres and perhaps did so too well, notably during the disputes between Berte and Emile, since I didn’t know if I should laugh or if, on the contrary, I had to take these moments seriously. Nevertheless the play was easy to follow, full of spirit and provocative jokes, which amused the audience very much.

After meeting with the writer, I must admit that I had very high expectations, especially concerning the actors, who were, according to her, very talented. I’m happy to say that she was not mistaken, and that every single one of them convincingly embodied their roles. I was also very impressed by the actors who were clearly not native French speakers, but who still proved to be very courageous by performing in front of a mostly French audience.

However, I was surprised by the fact that I sometimes needed to refer to the sub-titles above the stage since, at certain instances, whether the actor was a native French speaker or not, the lines were said either too quickly or poorly enunciated. It was undoubtedly clear that the actors knew their lines, but it seems as though they sometimes forgot that it was the first time that the audience was hearing them.

The ending was also difficult to understand. Even though the writer had warned me that the ending would be absurd, she also admitted to me that while writing the play, she had not yet decided who the murderer was going to be. I think this uncertainty was unfortunately too clear within the development of the last scenes for I had a lot of trouble anticipating the conclusion as well as comprehending the purpose of incorporating a waltz. The formal salute which followed also left me very perplexed.

Nevertheless, I recognize that the flashbacks, although difficult to stage, were very well executed. At each flashback, a particular scene was played differently a couple of times depending on the character who was recalling the moment, which made the audience laugh a lot.

In conclusion, even though the story in itself was not as original as I had anticipated, the “mise-en-scène” was anything but traditional. Despite a couple of enunciation issues, the actors all demonstrated great talent. It seemed as though they took as much pleasure from performing in this play than the audience did in watching it. I would therefore recommend that the French Society keep producing original plays but in a larger venue: if the “mise-en-scène” stays this daring, people will certainly keep coming back for more!

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