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Theatre : a crime fiction vaudeville and a musical fantasy

February 24, 2019 Leave a comment Go to comments

I just love going to the theatre. There’s something incredible about seeing actors perform live and imagine all the practice, constant organization and talent to direct a play and be on stage night after night. I have a subscription to the Théâtre des Célestins in Lyon but I also go to other theatres when I have the chance.

 

I had the opportunity to go to Paris and stay a night. I booked a seat at the Théâtre Le Palace to go and see The Comedy About a Bank Robbery by Henry Lewis, Jonathan Sayer and Henry Shields. (2016) translated into French as Le gros diamant du Prince Ludwig. This comedy originally created in London won the Molière prize for Best Comedy in 2018.

The Comedy About a Bank Robbery is a crime-fiction vaudeville. Yes, this genre exists. Its playwrights have also written The Play That Goes Wrong, a disaster whodunnit I had the pleasure to see at the Théâtre Saint-Georges, also in Paris. At the time, it helped me realize what a well-oiled machine a theatre play must be.

Set in Minneapolis in 1958, The Comedy About a Bank Robbery has a rather simple plot. The Prince Ludwig of Hungary is coming to Minneapolis to retrieve the big diamond he left in the custody of the city’s bank. The perspective of this huge diamond whets the appetite of the local criminals, confirmed or amateur. Take Mitch, who escapes from prison with Cooper in order to steal this priceless diamond. His first stop in Minneapolis is for his lover Caprice, the daughter of the bank’s director. She’s a crook who lives off her charms, not as a hooker but more as a kept woman. When Mitch arrives, she had just sunk her claws into a new prey, Dave. He’s a lowly pick-pocket whose mother Ruth works as a teller at the bank but she thinks he’s rich and has a bright future.

Imagine a play where Dalton-like characters try to rob a bank. Ruth looks like a provincial Marylin Monroe. She and Caprice are the femmes fatales of the play, Ruth using of her charms on the bank security team and Caprice manipulating Mitch, Dave and her father’s long-life intern.

The whole thing is farcical with all the usual tricks of a laugh-out-loud comedy. The production was innovative, especially for the scene where Mitch, Cooper, Caprice and Dave are in the ventilation ducts, trying to find out where the strongroom is. It’s fast-paced, funny, full of mistaken identities and people hiding in faulty fold-up beds and cupboards. It respects the codes of crime fiction with the guy embarked in criminal activities for the sake of a woman (Dave), a hardened criminal on the run, ready for anything except failure and going back to jail. (Mitch) The parallel work of two femme fatales from two different generations, middle-aged Ruth and young Caprice, keeps the action going. You never get bored with this entertaining play, its twists and turns and characters that are so stupid that they are hilarious.

Highly recommended if you’re looking for an evening of fun. It’s still on at the Théâtre Le Palace in Paris and it’s on tour in Ireland and the UK. It’s appropriate for children too.

The week after, I booked seats to see Life Is a Bathroom and I Am a Boat by and with Ivan Gouillon, produced by the Théâtre Comédie Odéon in Lyon. (I looked it up, there are more than fifty theatres in the Lyon area).

According to its program, Life Is a Bathroom and I Am a Boat is a musical fantasy. Accompanied by a pianist, Igor the Magnificent tells his story as an artist on transatlantic cruises, starting with how he survived the Titanic shipwreck. Our mythomaniac but friendly narrator takes us through the twentieth century, mentioning Proust, Churchill, Fitzgerald and others. He seems to have survived all the great shipwrecks of the century, befriended people who became famous and unintentionally inspired masterpieces and political events. I bet you didn’t know that The Great Gatsby was meant to be The Great Igor but since Igor and Fitzgerald had fall-out, Fitzgerald eventually changed the character’s name. The whole show is like this, taking us down memory lane with a pleasant character who obviously lies but is still charming. There are a lot of famous songs in the show illustrating the times Igor is telling us about. They are standards the public knows well and we spend quite a pleasant evening in Igor’s company. He’s a cabaret artist, mixing singing and comedy.

It’s a feel-good show. Igor’s story is unrealistic and his adventures are deliciously farfetched. He’s probably nothing more than a bathroom singer who dreams a little too much. But he takes us with him on this fanciful journey, leaving our worried at the theatre door to sing along with him.

Next theatre episode will be: A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

  1. February 25, 2019 at 12:19 am

    Would it be curmudgeonly to point out that Mitch escapes from prison not evades from prison? As a man who massacres the French language every day I am in awe of your command of English. The plays sound like fun too. Here in Montmorillon we have a theatre – the Little Theatre – with a seating capacity of 50. Best from James

    Liked by 1 person

    • February 25, 2019 at 8:41 am

      I had to look up “curmudgeonly” 🙂 It’s not curmudgeonly at all. I made the change and as you speak French, you know where the mistake comes from. Pesky faux amis.

      Both are fun plays, even if The Comedy of a Bank Robbery is better.

      There seem to be a theatre in every city in France, even if it’s a small one.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. February 25, 2019 at 5:03 am

    It’s ages since I saw some live theatre. I used to go to London often but the ticket prices have rocketed. Fortunately places like the National Theatre now do live screenings to cinemas so at least I get to see the play even if its not quite the same as being there in the theatre

    Liked by 1 person

    • February 25, 2019 at 8:44 am

      La Comédie française also has screening in cinemas.

      How much does it cost to go to the theatre in London? Here is depends on the play and the theatre a lot.
      It cost me 29€ for the first play and 23€ for the second. 29€ for Midsummer Night’s Dream. Less than 30€ for plays in Paris, I think it’s OK.

      Liked by 1 person

      • February 25, 2019 at 11:36 am

        those are bargains. the last one I looked at was a ballet and that was 80 euros

        Like

        • February 25, 2019 at 11:54 am

          Some plays also cost that much, especially if they are with famous actors.

          Liked by 1 person

  3. February 25, 2019 at 6:56 am

    I like A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Bet it’s modernised or something along those lines.

    Liked by 1 person

    • February 25, 2019 at 8:47 am

      I don’t think so. It seems to be poetic and it’s at the Théâtre Le Ranelagh, they have a fantastic company. I saw Le Cid there and they managed not to modernise it and yet make it lively and modern.

      I’m looking forward to it.

      Like

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