Programming / French week – Day 6.
As I researched the subject, I discovered with amazement that the word Vaudeville does not mean the same thing everywhere in the world.
In my French week, it will be French Vaudeville.
At first, it was a song that passed from mouth to mouth – a French song, absolutely censored by contemporary morality. So I censor, I’m not immoral.
And it became a register of a theatrical play.
They are almost as scandalous as the original songs.
They are not intellectual at all.
They are not moral at all.
You will have learned nothing.
On the other hand, you will have laughed.
Well – unless you are very strict about the moral, intellectual and pedagogical stakes of the shows – but then, you’re not quite in the right place, I’m sorry & let me point it out anyway.
You got it: a French Vaudeville is a completely stupid comedy based on even more stupid flirting stories (no love in vaudeville, no chance of finding a single atom in it) – all punctuated by misunderstandings, disguises, lovers hidden in the closet, under the bed, in your best friend’s bed, doors that telescope, a creditor who comes to sow panic, a cousin who is not a cousin, an old aunt who has a beard under her makeup, in short, it’s silly.
When it’s badly written and badly played – it’s frankly to tears of dismay.
But when it’s well written and well played – it’s frankly to cry with laughter.
The goal is to surprise us with completely crazy stories, with characters so clumsy that we love them in spite of all their nonsense, and the great writers and actors are happy to play directly with the audience – and how good that feels!
One of the funniest authors is Georges Feydeau – if you don’t know his name, that’s normal – but if you know the Maxim’s restaurant in Paris, it’s thanks to him.
You’ll notice that the English version is full of songs – which is not so much imaginable in France any more, because it slows down the action considerably and makes you laugh less. So we cut the songs.
In Vaudeville, you’ll find completely far-fetched stories, you’ll be told about chamber pots and baby pots to purge, in Baby’s Laxative; you’ll be told about our so monomaniacal civil servants of papers and stamps and credentials, you’ll be taken for a walk with a whole family in a crowded train station and how not to lose dad and luggage and what would you rather lose in the end?
These are exactly the kind of shows that allow people who do not like theatre to reconcile with it.
Not only because the stories are silly, but also because the physical presence of the actors is really important: playing with the 4th wall means standing on the edge of the stage and talking to the audience. And that’s unforgettable.
Featured Image : Enora Malagré in La dame de Chez Maxim’s – G. Feydeau
I’m missing a lot of things to finish my tour of the spirit of France – my great intellectuals: Sartre – Camus? The undisputed masters: Rabelais – Voltaire? – rather serious or rather laughing, my faith it will depend a lot on my mood. French is volatile.