Tour de Force Theatre Company
Pros: Great to see some theatre in French. Fabulous costumes and good performers.
Cons: Perhaps some of the dance sequences could have been shorter.
Our Verdict: A promising start to an exciting festival for French speakers in London.
They say that London is the fifth biggest French city. That might seem like a confusing statement, so let me clarify: London is reputed to be the city which has the most French people living in it other than Paris and a handful of other big French cities. Thinking about how large this Francophone audience is, it is surprising how little French-language theatre is actually put on in London. Well, The Cockpit
theatre have clearly identified this niche, and are hosting the Voila Theatre Festival
as a result; a 10-day extravaganza of French-language performances. Of course, just as no English-language theatre festival would be complete without some Shakespeare, no french-language festival would be complete without some Molière.
As the only French-English bilingual member of Everything Theatre, I have the wonderful task of covering some of Voila theatre festival’s goings on. First on the list was a production of Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme
by Tour de Force
theatre company. Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme
literally translates to “the middle-class nobleman”. It is a comedy that deals with the wealthy son of a cloth salesman, Monsieur Jourdain, who is a bit of a social climber. He is obsessed with the idea of becoming upper-class, much to the dismay of his wife, and the amusement of pretty much everyone else. He bumbles along being conned and ridiculed by the people he is paying to teach him upper-class ways. When his daughter decides to marry her lover Cleonte, Jourdain refuses on the grounds that he is not upper-class. A plan is hatched whereby literally everybody dupes Jourdain into thinking that the son of the Sultan of Turkey (Cleonte in disguise) wants to marry his daughter, and the comedy ensues…
Tour de Force have certainly done a wonderful job of bringing Moliere’s comedy to life. The set was simple, as all the action happens in the same place, (often the tradition in French theatre), but what the set lacks in detail, the costumes make up for. From the touches of colour setting the different classes apart, to the outrageous “nobleman” outfit Jourdain is dressed up in by his tailor, no expense is spared on the costumes, which give whole show a nice period feel.
There were some great performances in the show. Unfortunately I was unable to find a cast list, so can’t give the actors’ due credit by mentioning names. The small cast divided the parts between them, with only the actor playing Jourdain confined to one role. He was very enjoyable as the hapless social climber, and he did a great job of conveying how determined, and yet how hopeless, his quest for nobility was. All the various actors shined in their many roles, with many great moments. Perhaps one point to mention is that a couple of the dance sequences were too long, but overall the play had some great performances.
Overall, Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme was a great way to kick off the Voila theatre festival at The Cockpit. And judging by the numerous spectators, there is certainly an audience for French-language theatre in London.
Please feel free to leave your thoughts and opinions in the comments section below!
Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme runs at the Cockpit until 1st November. The Voila festival runs at the cockpit until 10 November.
Box office 02072582925 or book online at http://thecockpit.org.uk/voila