“J’aime avec passion, et c’est ce qui fait que je tremble”
So I am officially broken now – whereas I had previously managed to limit my theatregoing to the UK borders, last year saw me venture to Paris and Amsterdam to take in plays and sure enough, return trips to both cities have been booked for 2014, two in both cases… First up in the things I couldn’t possibly resist, Isabelle Huppert. She’s one of the most constantly exciting actresses I know, her film work endlessly exhilarating and it feels a surprise that the Barbican haven’t gotten her over to these shores in some form or other.
Thus off to the Odéon-Théâtre de l’Europe to Les Fausses Confidences I went. Marivaux’s comedy wouldn’t necessarily be my usual tasse de thé and my A-level French is rusty to say the least but neither mattered a jot, the joyous intensity of Huppert’s performance as rich widow Araminte transcending any linguistic barriers. In Luc Bondy’s modern-dress production, she is a vision of wealthy chic draped in Dior’s finest, wafting around doing Tai-Chi manoeuvres but soon comically undone by the revelation that her impoverished steward Dorante is in love with her.
A gift for physical comedy soon becomes apparent (although fans of 8 Femmes won’t be surprised) as her world becomes subsumed by physical desire. This being a dark comedy of manners that predates Les Liaisions Dangereuses by only a little though, everything is a scheme designed by an embittered valet to manipulate her emotions and her fortunes. Louis Garrel’s Dorante is a marvellously ambiguous hero, his complicity in the plan not immediately clear to me even by the end as Manon Combes’ innocent victim finds out to her cost.
Johannes Schütz‘s set is an interesting set of blocks, constantly reconfiguring themselves as the labyrinthine twists of the plot continue to turn and Dominique Bruguière’s lighting complements it well in what is quite a thrilling production from Bondy, visually striking and educational enough to keep me connected in the moments when I wasn’t entirely sure what was happening! It was all more than worth it though to be in the most remarkable presence of Huppert, she really does radiate something unique and I desperately hope this won’t be the last time I see her on stage.