Adieu Feydeau

It’s been a fun couple of weeks chez les étudiants de Ryerson, playing La Dame de Chez Maxim.  Due to snow Friday night we’ve played six consecutive nights.

I feel I am cheating to say “we” because I am mostly a spectator at the piano, enjoying the performances of the talented students at Ryerson Theatre School.  What a lark… and what an ego trip!

I looked in Francisque Sarcey’s Quarante ans de theatre last night.   Sarcey is someone I know from my research on Maeterlinck’s Pelléas et Mélisande.  He has no patience for the work, wondering how one can bother with someone who repeats herself so much (and those of you who know the play will realize he’s not necessarily being unkind, even if he refused to meet the work on its own terms, did not precisely enter into the spirit of the play or its style).

But Sarcey is crazy for Feydeau, suggesting that this play is so perfect that you wouldn’t change a word or a gesture.  Speaking of laughs, i giggled to notice that this great critic’s review takes us through the work in a way that nowadays would be considered a guaranteed spoiler, giving away several jokes.  His critical assessment is the tiniest part of the review.  But then again he is shrewd, a commercial success in his own right, in distilling key moments of the play into his writing.

This must seem rather amazing considering that we see so little of Feydeau on our stages.  Is the life depicted so different from what we see in our plays and films?  Do we no longer have marital infidelity?  Nobody believes in ghosts?  Everyone now tells the truth?


But there are some things that have changed.  There are a lot of people in this play, which means lots of actors to hire, and no easy parts to play.  It’s a long piece of work, coming in at over three hours of break-neck energy and wackiness.  In a big theatre without amplification the performances likely call for a different skillset than what we see now.   Considering that the Ryerson theatre has sold out every night perhaps Feydeau deserves another look (although it did help that the show has a huge cast, which equates to lots of family & friends coming to see).  In an adaptation –translated into a modern idiom — I suspect the length & number of parts could probably be dealt with (if someone hasn’t already thought of this…).

I am in any case, grateful for what I’ve seen, honoured to be of some use for such a capable & gifted bunch.  Dr Cynthia Ashperger didn’t allow her charges to take any shortcuts that I could see.  Every night they worked their butts off, seeking perfection in the next performance.

Tonight’s show is the last one.  I am very grateful.  It’s been huge fun.

I must read more Feydeau, although it suffers without the physical element, the voices and machinations onstage.

Will someone please put on some Feydeau?

This entry was posted in Dance, theatre & musicals, Personal ruminations & essays, University life. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Adieu Feydeau

  1. Dear Leslie, I think I just landed from our Feydeau extravaganza. We put on some Feydeau! Wonderful to be able to read this to know that it all actually happened. You were more than just a little part of it. Your presence and the music was very
    important. And I would agree with Sarcey – it is nearly a perfect play. Feydeau was one of the reasons I became an actor. Him and Odon Von Horvath. Some of my earliest memories are of a wonderful production of Flee in Her Ear in Gavella Dramatic Theatre in Zagreb when I was a child. Yes, he needs to be performed and not read. Well I’m up for it any time…Cynthia

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