A tragicomedy of two acts, adapted from tales written by Guy de Maupassant in the 19th century, Virelogne explores the limits of humankind, and mainly of women during war. We witness the brutality of battle and the weakness of the bourgeoisie during the invasion by Prussians troops of Virelogne, a town in Northern France. This is a delightful and energetic night of storytelling that starts simply but develops into a witty and enjoyable show.
The acting is beautifully staged, with the cast admirably crafting the countless characters that appear during the two stories. I found it amusing to see how each part was skillfully assigned to one of the six actors, especially in the second act, which in my opinion is the better half, being both funny and emotional.
Unfortunately, the audio playback overwhelms the rustic aesthetics of the play. I could sense a lack of design in the recorded sound element and it felt quite ordinary. Some of the sounds are cut suddenly, interrupting the flow of the action. The play definitely has more interesting and refined elements to work with. For instance, the actors were talented in physical theatre and the clicks they made with their mouths, or the sounds they made to accentuate body gestures, were entertaining. Likewise, the cast had good singing voices. In contrast to the dodgy sound, the lighting design by Andrew Whadcoat charmingly accompanies the mood of the stories.
The costumes at first seem awkwardly anachronistic, being a combination of contemporary with époque garments, but I came to understand that the actors were trying to present themselves as performers and storytellers rather than real characters. Thus the costuming defines them as actors in disguise, more than real characters represented on stage. The colour palette of the wardrobe is beautiful, evoking a bucolic scene and giving context to the stories.
The pace of the play is so fast that I did not notice when 55 minutes had already passed. The audience was confused that it had ended so soon. However, it can be good to be left feeling eager for more.
In spite of the difficulty in following some moments when the script jumps from Old English to French to German, I believe this is a play to enjoy as whole composition rather than through contemplating small details. Probably if you just sit back and let it wash over you, you will appreciate it more. I would recommend this show and the intimate Drayton Arms for a pleasant after-work or relaxed weekend event.
Based on the works of: Guy de Maupassant
Directed by: Claudia Carroll
Produced by: Orange Moon Theatre
Booking Link: https://www.thedraytonarmstheatre.co.uk/virelogne
Booking Until: 7 March 2020