Comedy by Noel Coward premiered in London in 1930 with Laurence Olivier and Adrienne Allen and produced in New York in 1983 with Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor.
Adapted by Eric-Emmanuel Schmitt in 2004
A couple are so madly in love that they can’t get along and settle sensibly into married life.
They separate but run into one another by chance five years later in a hotel on their wedding night, as both are “coolly” remarrying. In a panic at this encounter, they try to make good their escape, but their respective spouses bar the way. Too bad: they go off together for better of for worse. Plenty of laughs, but moments of tenderness, too.
"... The hardest part...”
... The hardest part is making sure the original lightness of touch and whimsical merriment don’t get lost in translation. The French version needed to have the grace of Coward’s script – a kind of ethereal, almost improvised quality…”...EES
Published in 2004 by Avant Scène
Theothea.com – Private Lives
After a first vain attempt by Bernard Murat in 1997-98 to split them up in “The Husband, the Wife and the Lover”, the shrewd producer has now repeated the exercise, this time in the theatre he co-directs, giving them respective replacement spouses so they can make a go of their love life, which has been such a mess up to now!
It’s fiction, of course, because in the real world, Pierre Arditi and Evelyne Bouix are a model couple, while on the boards of the Théâtre Edouard VII, even the celebrated English playwright Noel Coward couldn’t stop the ménage continuing its endless “Je t'aime moi non plus”-cycle!
It was a daring challenge to demonstrate, in the venue where tributes were paid to the memory of Marie Trintignant in August 2003, that what draws a man and woman together is most often a matter of an unexplained attraction between atoms but that such an irrational enigma might generate love and violence in equal measure.
Unless, to avoid all toxic outbursts, the protagonists manage to establish and stick to a marvellous little rule, so that in the event of a flare-up, one of the two can magically moderate their mutual aggressive impulses by uttering a contractual talisman.
“Amanita phalloides” are the magic words adapted by Eric-Emmanuel Schmitt: a deadly-aphrodisiac mushroom if ever there was one, though you’ve got to have the presence of mind to say it before the situation degenerates!
It’s all wonderfully frothy comedy, of course, and hilariously funny and skilful in the hands of this charming duo entangled in a recurring round of marriage and separation. Meanwhile, their new, legitimate partners look on aghast at the ravages of lost illusions, but they can’t stop their control getting gradually undermined by the ambivalent sentimental process.
For better or for worse, then, marriage is the outcome for Eliot, Amanda, Sibylle and Victor, who play these Sacha Guitry-like characters with all the flair of actors performing party-piece, punch-and-judy acrobatics on the wire of thwarted love and passion.
And who’s to mind if the Evelyne Bouix-Pierre Arditi couple functions to perfection, other than the beautiful brand-new duo of Sonia Vollereaux and Franck Mercadal, though, obviously, there could be another passionate reversal just around the corner…
Unless, that is, an outsider – a Portuguese maid, for instance, in this case Louise (Sophie Mayer) – comes in at the end and clumsily restores order to Nicolas Sire’s magnificent set, taking the opportunity as she does to return each to his own!
At the Theatre
• 2004- Théâtre Edouard VII
Produced by Bernard Murat
Pierre Arditi, Evelyne Bouix, Elisa Servier, Franck Mercadal and Sophie Mayer
Brussels, Théâtre Royal des Galeries, March – April 2007
Play by Noel Coward adapted by Eric-Emmanuel Schmitt
Produced by Adrian Brine
With Alain Leempoel, Isabelle Defossé, Maria del Rio, Nicolas Buysse