Review The period play showed the audience a view of seventeenth century France from the eyes of two distinct characters RANEE KUMAR
Just two characters on stage, bringing the rest alive through mention; past is brought forth through dialogue and the comedy of manners cascades upon the audience in the subtle parody of ‘Celimene and the Cardinal’, a French play with line to line English translation. One cannot imagine the gamut of elements that went into this one hour, forty minutes play. There were aphorisms and moments of sardonic humour. Innate traits of the French people, the trends of the period in which the theme has been placed, the hollowness of religiosity (in this case the Catholic church) and certain home truths about the time are woven into the fabric of this period (17th century) drama, a classic by the great French dramatist Moliere.
The stage opens to a young French woman Celimene (played with aplomb by Gaelle Billaut-Danno) , a bold, candid, down-to-earth, seductress of sorts and a Cardinal (Pierre Azema) cloaked with church principles, Biblical adages, prudish morals while the heart that pulsates inside the cassock he wears is still after lust and luxury.
There is a battle of wits between the two and during the play, unspoken traits of character get stripped and exposed much to the merriment and shock (for the conservative Christians) of the viewers.
Celimene is a character that comes out as genuine, realistic and also lewd in the French way! She is brazen to the core but the dialogues are tinged with humour and dignity. Subtlety is the crux of this parody, though to an Indian audience, a much-married respectable woman declaring one of her issues was born out of wedlock (in an extra marital affair) would sound rather bizarre and definitely not something to gloss over and laugh about! Going by the silence in the auditorium when such statements were mouthed, our viewer’s were aghast at such
This apart, the play stripped the tenets of Catholic thought and customs through humour and wit: The stress on confession as a weekly affair, implying that you can commit sins so long as you confess at the end of the week and that she cannot confess to God directly; it ought to be only through a priest; Carnal desires felt by the Cardinal at the slightest provocation by the woman; Conversations between the two characters especially the one that ensues when Celimene is being questioned about a nude painting of her, she says to his stinging remarks ‘when it was done, only one person, my husband saw me nude as he was the one who drew it; now they are two people who have seen the nude picture.’
The confession that she reels saying the threat of excommunication being as solemn as ‘killing a rat with all the viciousness in the world’ or ‘slapping the little son for bad behavior,’ were hilarious. The Cardinal is put to embarrassment at every juncture.
When at the finale he proclaims that religion and it’s propagators are meant to make the entire world and its people ‘good’, pat comes the reply, that if the world turned a good place, which it never would, there would be no room for Cardinals! The aesthetics of the closing scene where the chirpy, vivacious Celimene zooms out of our vision as a silhouette stays with us. The English translation on the digital screen backdrop is no match to the poetically placed French dialogues penned by Jacques Rampal, the director of the play! Period costumes and mannerisms pervade the stage with bare minimum props. Placement of the two characters across each other enveloped the space lending fullness to stage.
The play was hosted by Qadir Ali Baig theatre foundation along with Alliance Francaise, Hyderabad at the NIFT auditorium, Madhapur.