Friday, April 29, 2016

Giving Madame Bovary a voice

The tale of an adulterous, profligate, ultimately suicidal, French housewife doesn't sound ripe for comedy, though Flaubert's novel Madame Bovary briefly became a best-seller in 1857 after an obscenity trial. But the Peepolykus creative team ~ Javier Marzan & John Nicholson with director Gemma Bodinetz ~ wanted to 'give a voice' to its inscrutible heroine, so there is some gravitas at the heart of the wild proceedings in their extraordinary, hilarious, clever, magical, production of The Massive Tragedy of Madame Bovary, currently at Bristol Old Vic. For a summary without spoilers I can't surpass the company's facebook page:
Laugh and cry as Emma Bovary chooses the wrong husband... Lose yourself in mesmeric love scenes featuring devastatingly handsome men... Question the impotence of women in a patriarchal society, if you want... Marvel at how many parts a Spanish man with limited English can play... And of course, some lovely accordion playing.
The 'bijoux' cast comprises Javier Marzan, John Nicholson & Jonathan Holmes playing 20 characters and Emma Fielding playing the wayward heroine. The story opens with couple of rat-catchers on a cart who explain they are a framing device for the story: "Flaubert would be rolling in his grave - with envy, the production values alone would blow his moustache away."
And there you have it - ludicrous liberties with both literature and theatrical convention of this ‘lovingly derailed’ version of a classic tragedy. But she’s complex, this heroine who demands Is it unrealistic to want to be happy? and when events get too funny she stops the play to remind us of this, and the men shuffle contritely like boys at a bun-fight when the teacher gets serious, but then - luckily - they get back to all the crazy stuff again and even the ending is up for grabs as the cast have a quick rethink… Everything is sharp as a jump-cut, scene-changes mostly indicated by chalk scribbles on the near-blank set and costume changes faster than the speed of light. Among other highlights there's a fantastic seduction scene so magical they did it twice and a posh party where Emma is all lit up like a chandelier (literally) as lights whirl and the handsome Marquis scoots around (literally) while dull Doctor Bovary dances with a lobster.  You really should see it for yourself- you have till 7th May.

No comments: