Having two relatively succesful (Corbyn Island and A Door Should Be Open or Shut) Festival productions under my belt emboldened me to propose to the Crouch End Players committee that we should put on a version of a full length French classic. Seeing a production of Marivaux’s Le Jeu de l’Amour et du Hasard at the Théâtre Saint Martin earlier this year inspired me to tackle another of his plays.
Le Jeu de l’Amour at the Porte Martin, played in a style that Marivaux would have recognised, was outstanding. I had no intention of competing with the French on their own turf. No, I felt that I had to find a way of presenting his work that made it resonate with a contemporary London audience but wasn’t as directly political (or sweary, we’re looking for a larger audience after all) as our update of L’Ile des Esclaves.
At first glance Les Fausses Confidences – in which a penniless young man who has fallen in love with a rich widow attempts to scheme his way into her heart – can seem a distinctly queasy proposition in these #MeToo (or #balancetonporc) times. To be blunt the way in which the leading man and his ex-valet scheme to serve his master’s interests, if entertaining, is nevertheless difficult to approve of. ‘His rampant mendancity has little jusitification.’ * For some critics, no matter how much they admired Marivaux as a writer such dubious morals ‘gâte toute la pièce’ or ruin the whole play. **
How to get around such a flawed leading man? By updating the action to 1919 and making him a serviceman recently returned from the Great War – our version is called A Soldier’s Song – I hope to have given a psychological motivation for such iniquitous behaviour. Hector (renamed from Dorante in the original) has developed an obsession for Harriet (Araminte, now a wealthy widow and music hall performer) for reasons that are hinted at though never over-explained during the course of the plot, thus elevating him from the rather amoral schemer of the eighteenth century original. Music buffs may also see the resonance in French culture of having a Hector obessed with a Harriet.
And to my delight when I discussed the play with the director Victoria Welsh she took on this idea further, situating the play in a much more radical staging than I had envisaged that will reference the original Marivaux production by the Comédie-Italienne that will allow us to see Hector as just as much manipulated as manipulator. But more of that as I trace the development of the production over the forthcoming months.
We are in the process of auditions at the moment and my next blog post will be to give my own take on that process, which was entirely new to me. (Casts for previous shows, excellent though they proved to be, were assembled from the resources available rather than via the luxury of selection). The show will be happening in the last week of March 2019 at the Moravian Church Hall on Park Road, N8. If you’ve read this far please do come along and say hello. Or if you have staged or watched Marivaux yourself I’d really welcome comments and questions on your own experience of Les Fausses Confidences.
My research into other adaptations, purely to see what had been done recently on the British stage, led me to a version that foreshadows a piece that the Crouch End Players will also produce later in the year. In 1983 Timberlake Wertenbaker translated the play pretty much straight for a production at the Lyric, Hammersmith, giving it the title False Admissions. In the autumn the CEPs will stage Our Country’s Good, her account of Thomas Kennealy’s novel The Playmaker, which concerns a group of officers and convicts putting on a play in colonial Australia. Which goes to show that the Players have a wonderfully diverse repertoire to offer the public in 2018.
* Kenneth McKee, The Theater of Marivaux (Peter Own: London, 1958), p. 211.
** Edouard Thierry, La Revue de France, March15th, 1881.
Blue Badge guide to London and academic specialising in early twentieth century history. Blogging on history, academia, and food and culture in the capital (and occasionally elsewhere).