By Isabel Ovalle
After directing plays written by Alan Bennett, Victor Haïm, Samuel Beckett, Jaoui-Bacri, Reza and Molière at the Qatar National Theatre since 2008, French actress and director Alice Safran now brings to Doha The Lady from Maxim’s.
The comedy, written by Feydeau at the end of the 19th century, has a main cast of 15 Lebanese and French actors, plus six dancers and five musicians. The performance will take place at the Qatar National Theatre today and tomorrow at 8 pm.
“It’s a comedy about a narrow-minded doctor who finds himself in many comic situations. It’s an explosion of comedic situations, which will also have music and dance; it’s pure entertainment,” said Safran. The audience, she said, must go to “the second level of understanding.”
The play will be in French, a language that approximately 200,000 people speak here. The main characters are played by professional actors, most of them from France (Nicolas Djermag, Paolo Palermo, Christian Canot and Alice Safran, among others), and one from Lebanon, actress Lamia Kahtib.
The secondary characters are played by some of Safran’s adult pupils. There will also be dancing during the interludes, and several musicians will follow the action of the play (Eugene Bold on violin, Claire Martin Mayeur on piano and Yassine Ayari on flute, with clarinet and drums also involved).
Behind the production is a French professional theatre company, Thunderbird Theatre, created by Safran in Paris in 1996.
The company has performed many shows in Paris and other parts of France.
Given that Safran is settled in Doha since 2007, the company has also performed several professional shows here with the support of the French Embassy and Total. Shows performed at the Qatar National Theatre include: The Bourgeois Gentleman, by Moliere (May 2012); Lifex3, by Yasmina Reza (May 2011); Family Resemblances, by Agnes Jaoui and Jean-Pierre Bacri (April 2011); Waiting for Godot, by Samuel Beckett (June 2009); Games on Stage, by Victor Haim (May 2008); and Talking Heads, by Alan Bennett (March 2008), which was also performed in Bahrain in 2010.
Written in 1899, The Lady from Maxim’s is one Feydeau’s most popular and famous comedies. In the play, a whirlwind of cowardly and dazed characters, stuck in their lies, are pulled by quid pro quos into a dramatic turn of events that make them run forward, unbridled and absurd.
The play begins the day after a party, when Doctor Petypon is found asleep under his sofa, with an unknown woman in his medical office. Petypon tries to get rid of her by all means, despite his wife always coming in the way and his uncle, a general, arriving from Africa. The lady from Maxim’s is quiet unpredictable. She takes advantage of the situation to enter high society and create some trouble.
At Qatar National Theatre, said Safran, “the stage direction will try to emphasise this hysteria into absurdity and fantasy, in which the characters will become comic puppets, like heroes of the silent movies. Music and dance will provide rhythm to this playful and joyful theatre.”
Thunderbird Theatre, which came to Qatar recently, always performs contemporary shows and tries to choose plays where relationships are ambiguous and crazy, with elements of the absurd and comic (from Goldoni to Beckett).
Ultimately, the stage direction of Safran tries to explain contemporary topics lucidly and with a certain sense of humour. She also gives great importance to the sensibility and the involvement of the artist with his body, while stage designers and musicians collaborate to create a delicate and sensitive atmosphere.