Imagine Rowan Atkinson fused with Sarkozy and you’d come close to envisaging the eccentric little man who giggles, grimaces, whines and whinnies over the stage as thirty years of marital angst are thrashed out. Loïc Rojouan plays this exasperated politician at loggerheads with a not-so-longsuffering wife (Violaine Atimont), who lets him know exactly what a pain in the derriere he really is. A veritable giantess next to her spouse, the woman is elegantly dressed after a dinner party where an extended conversation with a rival colleague of her husband sparked this evening’s row. Languid and glamorous in a silver evening gown, she nonetheless pulls no punches when it comes to throwing insults, accusations, and even the odd ornament at her husband. “Not my Poker Player of the Year Award 2004!” he cries as his wife cackles. But it’s an eye for an eye, and before long a vase handed down by a detested mother-in-law lies in pieces. Anguished protestations from his wife only serve as a reminder of yet another source of contention: “Your mother? Your mother? She always hated me! When she was dishing out the family meals she always left me ’til last and gave me the crappiest little bits of meat.”
Despite an argument that is childish in its execution throughout, some serious issues are sniped and snarled over: affairs on both sides, disappointment in their children, charges of hypocrisy and fundamental differences in political outlook are all brought to the table. First performed in 2008, Parle-moi d’amour is the first play of writer Philip Claudel, whose I’ve Loved You So Long (Il y a longtemps que je t’aime) of the same year went on to win the BAFTA for Best Film Not in English. Whilst dramatically different in style and content from his highly-acclaimed film, Parle-moi d’amour again demonstrates Claudel’s striking ability to expose the peculiarities of personality which belie complex characters and relationships.
In contrast to I’ve Loved You So Long, it’s also raucously funny. Quips and snappy retorts delivered by these talented comic actors serve up engaging and intensely amusing dialogue, whilst slickly choreographed physical humour is at times side-splitting. For example, a moment of hilarity ensues as the husband, exhausted after a particularly vehement debate, forgets why a ‘cactus design’ chair created by his artistic son might be unsuitable for usual seating purposes… In the cosy, intimate auditorium of Café Théatre Des Beaux Arts, wine-sipping spectators may as well be reclining (and at times ducking their heads) in the living room of this oddly-matched, squabbling couple. Squint a little and think of Nicolas and Carla, and you might just find this access-all-areas marital comedy even funnier.
Parle-moi d’Amour is playing at Café Théatre Des Beaux Arts until 27 December. For more information and tickets, see Café Théatre Des Beaux Arts