Brighton Fringe 2009
New Venture Theatre Productions
Venue: New Venture Theatre
Festival: Brighton Fringe
A performance that takes on three parts of acting, singing and dance. The first part shows Madame X accusing Mademoiselle Y of sleeping with her husband with interesting consequences, which is then followed by songs that are based on the original play. The performance then finishes with a dance piece that examines the mind and what can happen – especially in relation to Mademoiselle Y’s character.
The first thing that was different as the audience walked into the foyer was that is was set up like a café with tables, candles and a single flower in the middle of them. Instantly we felt relaxed with the gentle background music and the wonderful atmosphere created by the intimacy of the venue.
The first part of the show took place here in the form of a short play by August Strindberg called ‘The Stronger’ in which two women met in a café catching up on old times, but there was a very strange feel to the scene in the sense of one of the women not speaking at all. A sensitive subject of adultery was extremely well handled by Gayle Dudley and Christine Gelder as the tension built up slowly and gradually.
Gayle Dudley portrayed Madame X as someone who had so much bubbling under the surface despite her upper class behaviour and disposition with such class and dexterity. Her confrontation with Mademoiselle Y about sleeping with her husband was played with subtlety, sincerity and sensitivity whilst interplaying with comedy to try and keep the conversation light-hearted. Whilst the speech was handled well, there were times when she went so quiet that the audience couldn’t hear some of the words,espite this, Gayle portrayed a wonderful character that the audience could relate to.
There is a saying that silence speaks volumes – much louder than words. This was proved to be true with Mademoiselle Y played by Christine Gelder. Gelder’s control as the speech continued was mesmerising to watch and had us all on the edge of our seats. It was interesting to see how she reacted to everything with a graceful understated subtlety which made us all wonder what on earth she was thinking whilst reading her magazine. What really made things intriguing was at one point in the play, in a bizarre imagination sequence, Christine got up, walked over to Madame X kneeling on the floor and gave her a kiss on the lips. This got me wondering whether Mademoiselle Y had secret lesbian tendancies apart from wanting Madame X’s husband. The fact that it made me think that shows an actress who has a gift of suggestion – a powerful rarely seen talent in performance today.
We then moved into the theatre to listen to Nicolette Corcoran singing songs she had written herself based on the play. A complete contrast to what we had seen before as there were no instruments, just Nicolette and her loop deck to make her voice seem like music. We heard songs of love, anger, jealousy and resignation – hearing the link between the play and the singer’s mind. This was an intimate and enjoyable experience, but what could have made it better is less pauses in between the songs as she reset her loop deck with more interaction with the audience. Apart from that, her lovely voice took us on a journey that we didn’t want to end.
The second half of the show ended with a very powerful dance choreography, performed by the show’s co-director and choreographer Tamar Daly. This piece had a very simplistic set of a chair, a microphone and stand and a mannequin with Mademoiselle Y’s coat on it, which added to the intensity of the piece we were to see unfold before us. It was exciting, varied and odd in a beautiful way as it indicated the state of the mind at its most busy and dark. The way Tamar used each prop with and without musical accompaniment was different and added to the bizarre feel to the evening by giving us a possible indication as to what was going on in Mademoiselle Y’s mind as she sat in the café letting Madame X talk. Wonderful media images of talking lips, spiralling circles and extracts from Madame X’s speech made the piece even more dramatic and mesmerising to watch and ended what turned out to be a good night.
Staging wise, using the two spaces of the foyer bar and the studio theatre was an ingenious move, because it was beyond everyone’s expectations and immediately got us tuned in. If anything, it made us comfortable, but like Mademoiselle Y and Madame X, a small change can make a huge impact – and that is what this performance did with us on many levels.