Sydney, Sydney Fringe Festival 2014

Je T’aime Moi Non Plus, SFF 2014

0 Comments 25 September 2014

French is often called the language of love. Even bread sounds sexier when said in those dulcet tones. Yet no matter what language you speak, misconstrued messages and miscommunication leads to jilted lovers. Here lies the charm of Je T’aime, Moi Non Plus/I Love You, Me Neither. Produced by Sydney French Theatre, seven very different couples, in seven very different skits, showcase the trials and tribulations of modern relationships.

It’s 9pm on a Saturday night and the venue, New Theatre is a mixture of Frenchmen, Francophiles and miscellaneous theatregoers. The show opens with a glittering compere in black. She appears to introduce each skit and retorts the ridiculous French stereotypes spouted by an ill-informed lover of French culture in the “audience”. The first skit is a tribute to young love as two school kids excitedly explore the playfulness of societally accepted traditions. Ending in a giggly exchange of eternal love, this scene excellently encapsulates the curiosity and imagination of a child’s perceived notions of relationships.

The show traverses a wide range of relationship experiences: from heterosexual, to homosexual relationships; from adultery to issues with the in-laws. The sharp dialogue and immersive characterisation keep the audience entertained. As the play is performed almost entirely in French, technical issues, such as a misalignment of English subtitles on the projector leaves the first skit without translation. Even though the alignment is never quite fixed, the actors do an excellent job in presenting the story through their physical nuances to deliver the tone and plot of each skit. However it is difficult to abstain from considering the acting eccentric when the words are spoken in another language. The writing and performance succeeds at transporting the audience into each lover’s tryst time after time, and though actors appear in multiple skits, the quality of performance is so high they are almost unrecognisable in their new roles.

The staging is simple and a wide spotlight is used to isolate the couple and props. A notable highlight is the skit featuring a couple’s differing post-coital expectations: one wants to talk and the other just to be. The two “lie” together in a vertical bed on stage, and under red satin sheets find common peace in an oh so European way: by sharing the soothing puff of a cigarette. Another honourable mention is to the irony and acerbic wit of the skit in which a philandering wife is once slapped by her lover, but is able to both deflect her husband’s suspicion of her wandering ways and return the slap to her lover.

Coming in at just under two hours, the production is quite long overall. Some tweaking and shortening of the existing stories would allow for a more extended engagement with the clever material, however this humorous representation of relationships is both reassuring and pleasantly voyeristic theatre to watch.

Reviewed by Eliza Berlage.

 

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I play with animals and words. I can talk underwater but prefer to talk on radio. Writing works better online and in print. I tried it but you sea this is why we can't have nice things.

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