Review: Sacha Guitry, Ma Fille et Moi, Playground Theatre

Opening with immediate intrigue, Sacha Guitry, Ma Fille et Moi captivates audiences with an enthralling opening sequence. A work of biographical theatre with a difference, this show presents the twentieth century playwright and actor Sacha Guitry but considers him from the perspective of a fictional colleague turned lover, turned enemy. Running at the Playground Theatre for one week only, Sacha Guitry, Ma Fille et Moi is performed in French, but subtitles roll above the stage for non-French speakers to follow along.  

Marianne Badrichani and Edith Vernes created this unusual show, the latter of whom stars in the leading role under her own name. Edith revisits her time working with Guitry (Sean Rees), her career as an actress and her relationship with her daughter (Anais Bachet) in a show that borrows scenes from Guitry’s short plays and injects them into a narrative that ties them all together. Her fiery chemistry with Guitry, her artistic ability and her daughter’s sudden desire to become an actress point to the fact that these three separate facets of Edith’s life are much more interconnected than first appears.

Scenes from Guitry’s plays are cleverly updated and the original farce is given a new ridiculousness thanks to Vernes and Bachet’s comedic performance and Ree’s knack for playing a vain, celebrated playwright who always writes himself into the best roles. Disappointingly, the killer hook at the beginning of the show is never really followed up, and I found myself leaving the theatre unsure of the connection between the brilliant opening scene and the rest of the play, entertaining as it was.

In a show where the theatre clashes with reality, the set perfectly represents its story. From a clothes rack in the corner that makes for natural mid-scene costume changes, a table of props ranging from wigs and hats to a bottle obviously labelled “poison.” A lightbulb frame and red curtains flank the stage, and each scene makes use of the prop door, whether for passing through or deliberately avoiding. This excellent design is the work of Lydie Drouillet.

The music and lighting make this meandering play easy to follow as the scenes switch from past to present, fiction to ‘reality’, though it is made particularly clear by the ingenious use of a simple bell. Overseeing many of the scenes is the voice of the omnipresent director, real and fictional, Badrichani, which also helps the audience to establish where they are in time, place and story.

Sacha Guitry, Ma Fille et Moi shows off all the fun and flaws of show business in an incredibly entertaining way. It is a production that brings French writers, past and present, to the UK at a time when we need them most.

Sacha Guitry, Ma Fille et Moi is playing Playground Theatre until 2 February 2019 For more information and tickets, see the Playground Theatre website