Rogues & Vagabonds

theatre, film & tv past and present 2001-2008 & 2013…

Archive Review • THE LITTLE BLACK BOOK • Riverside Studios • 2003

Paul McGann at the Florida SuperCon, June 2015 [Wikipedia]

Paul McGann at the Florida SuperCon, June 2015 [Wikipedia]

‘Forget my appearance and content yourself with my essence,’ says the beautiful intruder to the young man who will never divine her real identity, reminding us that when watching Jean-Claude Carrière’s early play, we are floating in the dimension of existential romantic comedy. Her identity is not fixed. She is what she chooses to be: virgin, whore, a stranger, an old entry from his little black book. She is also every woman he’s ever slept with, and Everywoman. Suzanne and Jean-Jacques’s little game of bluff and banter is an allegory of every sexual relationship in which the partners struggle for dominion of space.

At first the battle goes all Suzanne’s way. She successfully takes over his home and personality, winning his love to the point when she can drop him, then gradually, as he in turn pursues her, he gets the hang of the game, sees through her wiles, and hits back, double-guessing her next move, wrong-footing her by being more reckless than she. All this might have the potential to be gripping entertainment, informed with lively dialogue and culminating in a climatic passionate event, but it is not fulfilled. The ideas are undeveloped, and the often-stilted direction does not generate the sexual and intellectual energy necessary to propel the play through its more listless passages.

This is not the fault of Susannah Harker, who infuses Suzanne with kittenish charm and erotic languor, though she leaves the darker, more ambiguous, identities of the character unexplored. Some of the production is stronger on appearance than essence: Julie Marabelle’s detailed set (though let down in a couple of instances by the furniture and props, perverting the law of theatre that what doesn’t register with the audience, does not exist) fully utilises the disproportionately wide space of the Studio. It is dominated by a fabulous transparent wardrobe where we can see more suits hanging than other men wear in a lifetime, which instantly reveals Jean-Jacques’s vanity and meticulousness. The choice of music during the scene changes puts us in the mood for Parisian cool.

Jean-Jacques’ flat has more personality than Paul McGann as its owner: he seems a sadly desiccated and weak figure to be a successful womanising lawyer, easily emasculated by the voluptuous Suzanne. Even his houseplant looks wilted. His stiffness and lack of conviction are fatal to a two-handed production. If the actors were able to spark off each other, the play, presented here in Solvène Tiffou’s new translation, might come to life. Susannah Harker is left pitifully alone to engage us with a realised performance, so her brand of light comedy defines the production to the exclusion of all other dramatic expression. Marianne Badrichani’s direction does not lead the actress or the audience to areas of more suspense. Golden-haired, silver-voiced, Harker sings her way through the play, mainly on one note. She early on establishes a relationship with the audience, sharing her mischievous irony, intimating that we are to join her in a game of moral hide and seek. But the man won’t join in, and the play meanders on, avoiding confrontation with dramatic incident, other than a coat being thrown out of a window. The opportunity to divert us with a jeu d’esprit, teasing us with shifting patterns of identity and choice at the same time as we watch the bedroom farce of Jean-Jacques and Suzanne, is missed and we are left to guess at what might have been.

C J Sheridan © 2003

Originally published on R&V  02-03-03


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Dreaming Reality

If Existence is a dream, let us dream perfection....


Exploring best practice and research in sexual violence. A loud voice in the fight against victim blaming. Written and Managed by Jessica Eaton, Doctoral Researcher in Forensic Psychology

Teagan's Books

Now available: "Murder at the Bijou - Three Ingredients I"

Padre Steve's World...Musings of a Progressive Realist in Wonderland

Musings of a Progressive Realist in Wonderland

The History Woman's Blog

Just another weblog

Art by Jess Miller

sculpture and artwork


by Jack Monroe, bestselling author of 'A Girl Called Jack'

surprise saffron

relishing in life's surprises, delighting in food, travel, art

Wish I Were Here

Journeys Through Place and Time

Doron Art

A journey into my world of Painting

Taylor Revert

An anything-and-everything blog from life's number one fan

Random Facts in History

History is complex, massive, and full of strange events and coincidences. Learn with me as I hunt those out and bring them into the light.

Life with an Illness

*Tips and tricks on how to get through life when you have a chronic illness*

The poor side of life

Exposing the unfair treatment of jobseekers, the horrors of Universal Credit, unfair sanctions and heinous treatment of claimants at Ashton under Lyne Jobcentre.

Wild Woman Wisdom

We are wild, we are feminine we are rooted: I help women find their power and speak their truth.

Politics and Insights

Public interest issues, policy, equality, human rights, social science


Supporting the rich amateur theatre scene on the Isle of Wight

Robin Hoskyns Nature Photography - Blog

Images and stories of nature, science and conservation.

Sarah Ditum

Writing, etc.

The Müscleheaded Blog

"Nothing Exceeds Like Superfluous Jejunity "

Jots from a Small Apt.

Largely @ Liberty

Rethinking Life

Art and the philosophy of life

Croatia, the War, and the Future

Ina Vukic - Croatia: people, politics, history, economy, transition from communism to democracy

lynz real cooking

lynz real life

Pride's Purge

an irreverent look at UK politics

Pride's Purge

an irreverent look at UK politics

Tropical Affair

Observations of the illusion through the eyes of wonder...

The home of writer Barney Hoskyns' books, poems, photos and more.

Smorgasbord - Variety is the spice of life

Blog magazine for lovers of health, food, books, music, humour and life in general

I didn't have my glasses on....

A trip through life with fingers crossed and eternal optimism.

Left Handed Lottie

Drawing and painting on an ipad

Atelier 88

More than just rooms

The Sleeping Hare

Art by Lottie Nevin

Pacific Paratrooper

This site is Pacific War era information


The musings of a Londoner, now living in Norfolk

Vegan Books For Children

books from Little Chicken, Honestly Books and Violet's Vegan Comics


News, politics, insights, inside information from the left

Catherine Meyrick

Historical Fiction with a touch of Romance

Silver Screenings

an irreverent blog of old movies

My Life as an Artist (2)

Smile! You’re at the best site ever

Violet's Vegan Comics

Virtual Vegan Comics for Children

Two Rooms Plus Utilities

Written from the heart, this is the unadulterated truth of live with multiple chronic illnesses and being housebound. My life open for you to follow. Please join me


How current policy is little more than kicking the cat....

Matt's History Blog

Hopefully interesting snippets and thoughts

David Hencke

Westminster and Whitehall news investigations

Notes from the U.K.

Exploring the spidery corners of a culture and the weird stuff that tourist brochures ignore.

%d bloggers like this: