Les Prince des jouisseurs — A preview
words by Hayley Mohacsy
On Monday, the 11th of September, I was invited to a dress rehearsal of the Adelaide University French Club’s production of Les Prince des jouisseurs — or in English, the prince of hedonists. The play, written by Quebecois Gabriel Sabourin, is about the life of Georges Feydeau — a famous French playwright, and the aforementioned hedonist.
Director Steven Mann was inspired to put on the play after seeing it performed when he was on exchange in Montreal in 2014. He was also interested in returning to comedy as — excluding Les Misérables — the French Club has traditionally put on comedies.
Interestingly, the play features a rotating cast of actors, excluding the character of Georges. The reason behind this was the relatively small number of characters, as well as many people being keen to participate.
The cast comes from a range of study backgrounds, though their shared passion for French is evident in their performances. They range from starring in their very first French Club play, to starring in their tenth.
The play opens and is entirely set in Georges’ (Steven Mann) hotel room. The man’s hedonistic behaviour is immediately evident from his (quite frankly hilarious) interactions with the long-suffering chambermaid Marguerite (Susie Greenwood, also played by Julie Ross-Spooner). Georges is stuck in a rut, his creative spirit is gone, and he loses himself in heavy drinking and womanising in an attempt to avoid his problems.
After one such drunken night, Georges is awoken by Sicard, (Jess Black, also played by Richard Braum) an unsuccessful playwright who Georges paid to transcribe his plays, an arrangement that Georges subsequently forgot about.
What is ultimately created is a ‘play within a play’ detailing Georges’ own life.
Georges hopes to cast his son Jacques (Jacob Whitelock, also played by Liam Fitzpatrick) as one of the starring roles. However, theatre director Bertrand (Pip Braund, also played by Luke Ciancio) decides he will only consider this if Georges helps him in his quest to seduce a young nurse named Sofia (Liv Falloon, also played by Elaine Thomas), though it is obvious Sofia’s affections lie elsewhere. Over the course of the play, Georges is forced to face his past, and ultimately, face the truth. I won’t spoil it here — but the ending was something I didn’t see coming, though in hindsight it should have been obvious.
Transferring a play from the practice rooms to the theatre can be difficult for even the most seasoned actors, and there were definitely a few (albeit minor) mistakes.
My personal favourite was when Jacob Whitelock, playing a drunken Jacques, rather appropriately managed to hit a glass lampshade across the stage (that lamp was never restored to its former glory).
With ten weeks of rehearsal behind them, the cast was able to improvise out of unexpected situations and support each other through it. In the words of theatre director Betrand: “Mauvaise générale, bonne première!” (Bad dress rehearsal, great opening night!)
All in all, this play was a pleasure to watch. Despite the fact that this was a rehearsal, the cast didn’t treat it like one. This resulted in a high-quality performance, that thoroughly entertained me despite my abysmal knowledge of the French language (thank god for the English surtitles). The French Club has continued their streak of putting out high-quality plays, and I look forward to seeing the final product!
Le Prince des jouisseurs is running at Little Theatre from September 13–16. Tickets start from $10 and is inclusive of complimentary cheese and wine. See the event for more information.