Next week at the Corpus playroom there is a rare opportunity to see a play performed entirely in French, Rêver, Peut-Être. I caught up with the infectiously enthusiastic producer Sophie-Marie Niang and director Lina Fradin to find out more about what to expect from this enigmatic play.
Rêver, Peut-Être (‘to Dream, Perchance’) by Jean-Claude Grumberg blends reality, dreams and fiction into an absurd comedy about the haunting power of the past. Actor Gérard B., while rehearsing for Hamlet, murders Pollonius in a dream and is arrested for a lack of remorse. From then on the play presents us with a recollection of all of his memories, dreams and fantasies which together make up a journey on which Gérard can reflect upon his fears, sufferings and memories of his father. The play is about absurdism in many different forms from the absurdity of dreams to what the writer as a child perceived as the nonsensical deportation of his father.
This fascinating play can be seen as the cathartic output of Jean-Claude Grumberg, as Fradin explains: ‘He feels guilty for not having avenged his father from the war and on stage the absurd is his way of liberating himself from his souvenirs that have plagued him for years and years’. In light of the playwright’s past, the producer and director made the decision to provide a cathartic interpretation of the end: ‘the actor is his final monologue is able to reconstruct his life and overcome his past and gets a release’.
Only performed a handful of times before, Fradin is especially excited about bringing this play to Cambridge. She is brimming full of praise for her cast which, testament to the talent available in Cambridge, came to the play with a range of levels of French. As Niang tells me, this reflects the content of the play: ‘the play itself is a mix between English and French references while the cast is a mix of Australians, Brits and French’. The play is the opening part of the trilogy of plays on offer at the Cambridge International Theatre Festival (ITF, which runs from the February 6 to March 7), and is one of the few plays in Cambridge in a foreign language and as such is a must-see for anyone interested in the French language.
As Fradin explains, Cambridge a perfect place for foreign plays and foreign genres. ‘Just because it’s a play in French’, she tells me, ‘doesn’t mean we wanted a safe or easy production.’ Even for audiences who do not speak French, there will be plenty to be drawn in by and the producer has made every effort to ensure audiences will be able to follow the plot. Leaflets will be handed out before each performance that summarise the play scene by scene with time being put aside at the start of the production for reading. During the production itself, lighting and visuals will be deftly used to enhance the meaning of the scenes.
The French Society’s production promises to be a strong start to the inaugural Cambridge International Theatre Festival. Don’t miss out on this rare opportunity.
Rêver, Peut-Être runs at the Corpus Playroom from Tuesday 6th February to Saturday 10th February.