first night

A Flea in Her Ear

Madeleine Budd doesn't have her life changed, but what's the harm in that?

Having started my Friday with a less-than-amusing recounting of Sir Perceval, Hild Bede's first fresher play of the academic year was the best medicine to raise a smile to my face, even eliciting laughs from myself, the stereotypical farce hater.           

Indeed, A Flea in her Ear is a French farce written in the early 20th century whose comedy does not only lie in its slap-stick humour but also in its complex quiproquo. Created with the aim to confuse character and audience alike, the numerous entrances and exits as well as exaggerated speech impediments and dialogues of the deaf (dialogues de sourds, as the French would say) accentuate this particular misunderstanding of multiple situations. With around 240 entrances and exits in the play, one could easily assume that this task was just as challenging for the actors as for the director.

I found myself extremely impressed by the actors not only by the remembering of which door to go through at which moment, rapidly becoming similar to a game of cups and balls, but also by their presence. A Flea in her Ear being a fresher's play, the actors did not not have much university theatre experience but were utterly convincing. While it was obvious that some had acted before, the “new-comers” to the art of drama were just as refreshing as they were hilarious. Leo Sutton, portraying the speech impedimented character of Camille exaggerated the humour of his situation convincingly and to great effect with the audience.

The more experienced actors should also be given credit to their presence and individuality. Indeed, in a play where characters resemble each other in some way – such as Chandebise and Poche, portrayed by Rory Barnes – originality of tone and movement must be applauded. Both Lily Morgan as Raymonde and William Rhodes as Don Carlos Homénidès de Histangua were as extravagant as hilarious in their own way – one a head-strong woman who could almost become a parody of the modern wife, the other a temperamental Spaniard with nothing but hot blood in his veins.

I will however not lie and tell the audience, or even the reader of this review, that this play is a Shakespeare play. It is also neither a Beckett, a Miller or even a Pinter play. Apart from a vague sense of metodrama, it will not have raging, emotional soliloquies or complex metaphors and symbolisms on life. The lighting is kept simple, the backdrop only changes twice and there is no music – only shouting and the laughter of the audience. As the director, Jeremy Smart, so pertinently explains, “this play is not going to change how you look at life, but it doesn't want to. It wants you to enjoy yourself”. The director is speaking the truth: my outlook of life and society has not changed, but I did enjoy a laugh for an evening. And what better appreciation for the play but the audience's laughter?

Madeleine Budd

9 February 2013

The views expressed in the reviews and comments on this page are those of the reviewer, and are not representative of the views of DST or Durham University.
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