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A CurtainUp London Review
The Game Hunter
by Lizzie Loveridge
The story of infidelity is not a new one but one which does not date. There are no victims in Feydeau's farce because everyone is playing a double game. So Feydeau's plays do not touch on the pain and hurt of adultery but expose the hypocrisy of the anger at discovering infidelity. They are about jealousy, indignation, revenge and social cover up. The important thing seems not to be caught. The endings are forgiveness all round. It is all so very French this tolerance of one's spouse's marital affairs.
Leontine (Amanda Royle) is married to Duchotel (Philip York), the game hunter, who uses the excuse of his hunting to pursue an affair with his mistress. Moricet (Stuart Fox) writes poetry to the beautiful but prissy Leontine and is quite in love with her. When Duchotel arrives home from a hunting trip with both pheasant and partridges, Moricet points out to Leontine that the only place one can find both these game birds is in the butcher's! Leontine incensed at her husband's infidelity is persuaded to a rendezvous with the amorous Moricet at an establishment where the concierge is the Countess of Northern Latour (Janet Spencer Turner). Duchotel too and his nephew Gontran (Jake Thornton) have liaisons in the same apartment building. A Monsieur Cassagne is determined to catch his wife in flagrante delicto and so secure his divorce. Where does his wife live? In the Latour apartments. It is Madame Cassagne that Duchotel is due to visit, but Madame Cassagne has flown the love nest and Cassagne will open a can of worm paté.
It does take time for Richard Cottrell's 1964 translation to work. It somehow always sounds as if it is a translation but this may be the artificiality of nineteenth century French speech. But once one is involved with the plot, this matters less and the comedy takes over. The timing of the troupe is superb, lots of meaningful pauses as the characters try to extricate themselves from the obvious conclusion. It is true that some of the jokes one can see coming several kilometres away; some are wonderfully corny. One character tells of his arrest when he was not wearing his trousers. He was cautioned that anything would be taken down and held against him.
Janet Spencer Turner doubles as the cheeky maid and the blowsy Countess cum concierge. In a pink silk turban and an off the shoulder evening gown she looks unlike any concierge I have seen! By contrast Leontine is a neat wife in her Victorian day dress, who only agrees to meet her lover in revenge and almost immediately regrets her decision. Amanda Royle has her perfectly, like a little bird, attempting to salvage her reputation. Stuart Fox is the romantic and terribly verbose lover with a lush turn of phrase who takes himself too seriously. Philip York is very expressive as the pompous husband, almost plausible as he tries to escape from the most incriminating of situations. Robert Benfield as Cassagne has an amazing range of expressions of bewilderment and puzzlement as he pursues his divorce.
Rossini's music from La Boutique Fantasque arranged by Respighi is played in between scenes and is perfect for conveying the bustle and intrigue as complications increase and ruses backfire. The furniture for the sets is in period. All the men don a green baize apron for the major scene change from Leontine's sitting room to Moricet's apartment. As the Orange Tree is theatre in the round, the many doors closing and opening are mimed by the cast to the sound effects played by the stage manger with her magic box of door handles and catches.
Feydeau may not be cutting edge theatre but I found The Game Hunter charming and silly.
LINKS to Curtain Up reviews of plays by Georges Feydeau
A Flea in Her Ear
Mendes at the Donmar
Peter Ackroyd's History of London: The Biography
Somewhere For Me, a Biography of Richard Rodgers
At This Theater
Ridiculous!The Theatrical Life & Times of Charles Ludlam
The New York Times Book of Broadway: On the Aisle for the Unforgettable Plays of the Last Century
6, 500 Comparative Phrases including 800 Shakespearean Metaphors by CurtainUp's editor.
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