Farce is a difficult theatrical form to write and to stage successfully. Farce operates beyond reality; a farce must establish its own rules, its own heightened reality, so that the audience goes with it from the outset. The undoubted masters have been French, none more so than Feydeau. Born into a literary family in 1862, Georges Feydeau was an embodiment of La Belle Époque.
He was very handsome and said to be an illegitimate son of Napoleon III. He married well, had four children, but treated his wife no better than many of the characters in his plays. He made a close study of the great French farces and enjoyed his first real success in 1892. He didn’t look back. His biggest hit was A Flea in Her Ear in 1907, about to be staged by Sydney Theatre Company in an adaptation by Andrew Upton.
Upton has a good record with adaptations of foreign language plays. John Mortimer adapted A Flea in Her Ear for the National Theatre in 1966 which became a successful film in 1968 with Rex Harrison and Louis Jourdan.
A better understood translation of the title might be ‘A Bee in Her Bonnet’. This new version for the STC will be directed by the man of the moment, Simon Phillips, with lush designs by Gabriela Tylesova. The cast, including Harriet Dyer, David Woods and Helena Christinson, will be in the usual amorous whirl of misunderstandings and mistaken identities.
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