TFTV is back with their Double Take, and this year they revived two of Pierre de Marivaux’s most scintillating comedies – La Dispute and Les Acteurs.
La Dispute was a microcosm of the endless war between the two sexes, and the Prince (Jason Ryall) and Hermiane (Lucy Theoblad) were determined to settle their dispute once and for all: which sex is more flawed and unfaithful to their partner? In search of the answer, four children were raised in isolation, away from society and hence ensured their minds were untainted. The Prince released them into a sinister Garden of Eden when they reached the age of 19 and accompanied by Hermaine, watched events unfold as their servants Mesrou (Harry Whittaker) and Caries (Clare Duffy) introduced each child to the Garden of Eden.
Eglė (Leigh Douglas) was the first to be brought in by Caries, and after seeing Azor (Lauren Moakes), Eglė fell in love with him instantly. As they were amateurs in the world of love, despite the advice Mesrou and Caries gave them that they should spend time alone from time to time, there was no possibility they could perceive spending any time apart. As time went on, they realised the wisdom of their mentors’ words, and agreed to be apart for two hours each day. Taken as a sign of fading affection, Adine (Lixie Douglas) and Mersin (Emily Thane) were introduced into the story and their meeting with Eglė and Azor would only provide more questions than answers to the Prince, Hermiane, and the audience.
The play itself suffered from the biases that were shared in the 18th century. Eglė and Adine focused on nothing but their appearance, often competing for the ‘honour’ of being the ‘most beautiful’ woman; it was an uncomfortable experience to see two characters associate their value entirely with the admiration they received from men and their outward appearance. Azor and Mesrou in contrast, were portrayed as possessive and simple-minded. The director (Rosie O’Sullivan) created an interesting situation with females playing male characters, thus generating considerable confusion for the audience and lessening the contrast between the two sexes, which was the main theme of the story.
There was a fine performance all around from the cast. All four children maintained their distinct wildness from their upbringing and would’ve certainly impressed every member of the audience; Eglė in particular, was exhilarating throughout the show. Emma Kelly (Costume Designer) was the mastermind behind this sensational play as their costumes undeniably served as one of the highlights of the show. As all eyes were on the Garden of Eden, the Prince and Hermiane were an interesting contrast with their watchful eyes reacting accordingly as the story unfolded. It was regrettable that the story failed to achieve a balance of significance among characters for it would’ve strengthened the dynamic of the play if the Prince, Hermiane, Caries and Mesrou had a larger role.
With a simplistic setting in the Scenic Stage (Anna Mawn) and wonderful light effects (George Killick and Amy Milton) combining with the ingenious performances, La Dispute was a spectacular and sparkling play that brought great expectation for the next play, Les Acteurs.
Colette (Nicole Rushworth) was meant to marry Blaise (Helen Farquarson) but she seems to have a change of heart when she meets Merlin (Symone Thompson), who was supposed to marry Lisette (Yoshika Colwell). Angélique (Judy Walker), daughter of Madam Argante (Holly Morgan), wanted to marry Eraste (Fiona Kingwill) who wanted to marry Araminte (Elvira Chatz), who was a friend of Madam Amelin (Megan Conway), who was the aunt of Eraste. Are you confused? Fear not, you have walked straight into Les Acteurs and the chaos it brought with it was as breathtaking as ever.
Any attempt to explain the plot is deemed to fail as each of the characters was carrying their own conspiracies, creating an upper spiral at the wedding of Angélique. In order to test their partner’s heart, all of them improvised their own play, taking the wedding as their theatre. Reality and performance quickly intertwined and became one. Existentially confusing, Les Acteurs challenged our truthfulness in the face of promise and romance and although the story itself is not related to La Dispute, their theme linked together beautifully and left the Scenic Stage exploded with laughter and joy.
The first ten minutes was vital for the construction of the plot, and it would give strength to the necessary clarity if the play was slowed down at the beginning. Intrinsically perplexing, the entire female cast did more harm than good as the only way to distinguish male characters from female characters was by their dressing. Although by speaking to Assistant Director Andrea Barok, we understand that their production was limited by the fact that there were only six male students available for casting. A few mistakes from the cast, confusing ‘he’ as ‘she’ and ‘she’ as ‘he’ created further perplexity, and it was not until the last second of the play that we all learned the truth behind their plays.
Costume designer Lucy Walters and Costume Assistant Judith Walker did a marvelous job as the play involved both young and old characters, their costume design helped the audience to differentiate them from the pack. Lighting (Katie Wilkinson) and sound effects (Becky Robinson) were well mixed, especially toward the end of the play when every couple found their happy ending and danced with each other. Although staged as a comedy and written in the 18th century, Director James Dixon successfully transformed the play and made it relevant to our everyday experience. An existentialistic question was posed: Can we ever have clarity in the search for true love? As confusing as the play is, it might well be a mere reflection of reality, as reality seems to mirror the play quite drastically.