LITTLE BLACK BOOK
by Jean-Claude Carrière translated by Solvène Tiffou.
Park Theatre (Park 90) Clifton Terrace Finsbury Park N4 3JP To 19 January 2014.
Tue-Sat 7.45om Mat Sat, Sun, 31 Dec 3.15pm no evening performance 31 Dec, no performance 1 Jan.
Runs 1hr 25min No interval.
TICKETS: 020 7870 6876.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 28 December.
Discreetly disconcerting scenes in an apartment.
Despite the once-popular British image of France as an ooh-la-la land in permanent sexual overdrive, 200 years of French drama since Pierre Marivaux has focused on philosophical analyses of passion. So the prospect of nearly 90 minutes with a French play about a man, a woman and the bed between them seemed a dubious delight.
But this dates from author Jean-Claude Carrière’s period scripting the late, great films of Luis Buñuel. Its immaculately elegant bourgeois characters recall Buñuel’s hatchet job on such society in The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie, though a closer parallel is Bunuel’s final film That Obscure Object of Desire in which an older man is alternately enticed and rejected by a younger woman.
Buñuel’s calm manner, his films’ showing of events without psychological detail, is present here in the encounter of a respectable, middle-aged lawyer with a younger woman who simply enters his room.
Suzanne claims to be looking for a man she knows, but who is unknown to Jean-Jacques. For no reason she decides to stay, until he wants her to do so, at which point she decides to go. Whether what she says is true, fantasy or lie remains unclear.
But the pattern of an affluent man (about Carrière’s age at the time), having his steady routines disturbed by the approach of desire is clear, as is the way she takes over his territory – not so much the room but the black book recording previous liaisons during which his self-possession has not been threatened.
Kate Fahy’s production takes matters realistically; it would be possible to imagine other productions highlighting the contrast between the realism and its inexplicable context. Still, Gerald Kyd registers surprised normality through to rebuffed excitement clearly while Jenny Rainsford suggests a consistency and genuine quality behind her smiles.
Still, though, it’s the woman who remains obscure, changing unexpectedly, while the male proceeds on a logical if irrational line of action (suddenly rude to a client, giving up his job). Perhaps a companion piece from her point of view might reveal more – if that’s something Carrière wished, or was able, to describe.
Suzanne: Jenny Rainsford.
Jean-Jacques: Gerald Kyd.
Michel’s voice: Alex Marx.
Director: Katy Fahy.
Designer: Will Fricker.
Lighting: Leigh Porter.
Sound: Jing Ng.
Composer: Sophie Cotton.
Assistant director: Alex Marx.