Gadget by The Blog Doctor.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Theatre Review: The Madwoman of Chaillot

Last Monday (12/11/07) we attended the last of the MTC shows for the season - The Madwoman of Chaillot by Jean Giraudoux, adapted by Maurice Valency.

Magda Szubanski played the lead role. Although it was another entertaining evening, I left the theatre feeling a little disappointed. It was a preview which might have accounted for the "fluffed" lines and a sense of lack of polish. Szubanski was her usual entertaining self but did not reach the heights of her portrayal of William Barfee the fat kid with the high pants and the mucous membrane disorder, in 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee.

The following quote describes the premise of the play.

The play is a kind of poetic and comic fable set in the twilight zone of the not-quite-true. At the Cafe Chez Francis, a group of promoters plot to tear up Paris in order to unearth the oil which a prospector believes he has located in the neighborhood. These grandiose plans come to the attention of The Madwoman of Chaillot who is ostensibly not normal in her mind but who is soon shown to be the very essence of practical worldly goodness and common sense. She sees through the crookedness of the prospector and insists that the world is being turned into an unhappy place by the thieves and those who are greedy for worldly goods and power. At a tea party attended by other "mad" women of Paris, she has brought together representatives of the despoilers of the earth and wreckers of its happiness, and has them tried and condemned to extermination. In a scene which mounts into the realms of high poetic comedy, she sends the culprits one by one, lured by the scent of oil and undreamed-of riches, into a bottomless pit which opens out of her cellar. She is assisted by a deaf mute, a doorman, three flower girls, a street singer and a rag picker. The exodus of the wicked is accompanied by another and more beautiful miracle: Joy, justice and love return to the world again.

Although this play was written in the 1940s there are many modern resonances; capitalists behaving badly; environmental vandalism; terrorism (though in this instance by ostensibly respectable people).

The play is overlong, and some wordy sections could have been edited. One particular example is the long and fairly silly conversation between the three "madwomen" at the beginning of the second act.
When we were booking this season we did not carefully determine the dates, consequently we went to a few previews. We were aware of this issue when we booked for season 2008 and so booked dates when the plays had been running for more than a week.

We will be attending our next MTC play from Tarneit!

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