Les Femmes Savantes/The Sisterhood by Molière is presented as classic satire.
While the French feel is barely recognisable, the idiomatic English is well phrased and rhyming words are really nice on the ear.
The content is the best thing about this play because it is the catalyst for the comedy. Feminism is a major theme. Set in the 1980s, with the ‘new’ feminist movement being around 20 years old by then, women were finding they could have it all. They could be a wife, mother and have a career. The comedy therefore, is because of a serendipitous pairing between the main topic and a character at any one time.
Let’s look at some of the characters: Philaminte can only be described as an academic snob and she has unjust reasons to ban both Clitandre and Martine from the house, and for the very same reasons, Chrysale attempts to exert his male dominance. Meanwhile, Henriette battles to wed for love; while the principled, Armande comes to realise she’ll probably be left on the shelf. Poet Trissotin is a scoundrel who is seizing the advantage, while Vadius is working to expose him – so you see the satire is played in tune with the original. As for Ariste, he is crucial to the ‘all is well that ends well’ ending, and I will say no more about that.
Highlights are Paul Trussell as Trissotin (Belgrade Theatre, Film, TV) I thought his stage moves to be a cross between Blakey from On the Buses and Rick from The Young Ones and someone else who I couldn’t quite nail. I enjoyed his send up of the arty farty brigade and the responses from the other characters in his poetry reading scenes were very amusing. One or two little digs at the critiquing world in the script and so especially apt for press night, a touch of the laissez-faire from the playwright with the message being: if a review is good, fantastic! If it’s bad – who cares!
The play does not have you in stitches and you wouldn’t be wrong to hope that it might, nonetheless, there is much substance to it and the result is entertainingly good. An excellent wardrobe ensemble which is worth a mention: Trissotin’s get up is very funny, and I remember having a black and red dress similar to the one Belise wears so authentic is the time matching, as for the oversized shoulder pads on the jackets the women wear they are a real hoot!
I like the B2 at The Belgrade as it is such a modern setting in contrast to the traditional that the main auditorium offers. The sound quality is always excellent. The inclusion of the 80’s hits blasting out was really cool, and the play does not outstay its welcome. I enjoyed it!
Photography by Robert Day
Featured top image: Paul Trussell (Trissotin), Julia Watson (Philaminte), and Miriam Edwards (Martine)
Review by theatre critic, Debra Hall, who attended press night of The Sisterhood at The Belgrade Theatre, Coventry on Tuesday 02 February 2016