A Night of French Mayhem

Herald Theatre, Aotea Centre, The Edge, Auckland

05/07/2006 - 16/07/2006

Production Details

Adaptation of Molière's "The Rehearsal at Versailles" by Anders Falstie-Jensen
"Two Precious Maidens Ridiculed" by Molière
Both directed by Anders Falstie-Jensen

Two Precious Maidens Ridiculed:
Set designer: Simon Coleman
Costume designer: Naomi Spicer

Presented by Rebel Alliance

Fresh from having turned The Herald Theatre (and parts of Aotea Sq) in to a battlefield with The Orderly, Auckland’s Rebel Alliance once again swoops into action at The Herald Theatre, delivering to you the July season of A Night of French Mayhem; two one act comedies, performed back to back by a cast of eight actors.

In 70 fast paced minutes A Night of French Mayhem features the world premiere of Danish playwright Anders Falstie-Jensen’s The Rehearsal, a modern adaptation of Molière’s The Rehearsal at Versailles set in present day Auckland, along with the New Zealand premiere of Molière’s classic comedy Two Precious Maidens Ridiculed set in 17th century Paris.

The Rehearsal is a biting satire on the New Zealand theatre scene and the haphazard and often chaotic nature of producing theatre. Recently returned from an inspiring backpacking odyssey through Peru, theatre director, Gilroy Cuthbert, is an artist on a mission: to make edgy and innovative theatre. The Rehearsal is like watching The Office, only with a French twist.

With Two Precious Maidens Ridiculed Molière beat the writers of Sex and The City to it by 350 years. It’s the classic one act comedy that all others should be measured against. Featuring a whole cast in breathtaking period costumes and packed with memorable one-liners, Two Precious Maidens Ridiculed is a one act comedy carrying a hefty punch.


The Rehearsal is a modern adaptation of The Rehearsal at Versailles. Set in present day Auckland we get to see the cast on a troubled day of rehearsal, as they struggle with various aspects of a Molière’s play.

Can New Zealanders even do French accents convincingly? Is the play really about dark sexual undercurrents at Court or is that just something the director says because he’s a dodgy man with the gift of the gab? What do you do after you’ve drunkenly pashed a fellow actor who now believes that you love him?

The characters in The Rehearsal and their problems will be familiar to most, whether they know a lot about theatre or not. It is about how difficult it can be to voice your opinion in a group; it is about abuse of power and about having the strength to say ‘no’. The Rehearsal is a biting satire on the New Zealand theatre scene and the haphazard and often chaotic nature of producing theatre.

Two Precious Maidens Ridiculed was Molière’s claim to fame. With piercing accuracy Molière pinpoints human behaviour when it is most outrageous – and most entertaining – as two precious maidens are cruelly set up when they meet the very eager, charming (and lustful) Mascarille and his friend, Jodelet. In Two Precious Maidens Ridiculed Molière explores what happens when personal ambition collides with lust and revenge.

Auckland – The Herald Theatre

July 5th to 16th

Ticketek 09 307 5000 or www.ticketek.co.nz

Ticket prices $25 to $20

Catherine Nola
Nicci Reuben
Geoff Allen
Russell Pickering
Andrew Merrie
Richard Rugg
Michael Downey

Theatre ,

1hr 10mins

Classical France meets present-day Auckland in Gall-fest

Review by Nik Smythe 10th Jul 2006

Two one act plays, one by Molière (Two Precious Maidens Ridiculed), and the other, The Rehearsal, by director Anders Falstie-Jensen, based on Molière’s The Rehearsal at Versailles.

Both plays ostensibly set out to expose posing, self-obsessions and all things pretentious: necessary qualities in Molière’s day for social climbers in France.  As a concept it is fairly ambitious and the Rebel Alliance works hard in the face of its main problem:  the risk that the work itself may become the very pretentious crime it seeks to avenge. 

Two Precious Maidens Ridiculed has a sumptuous set (designer Simon Coleman), sumptuous costumes (Naomi Spicer), and an array of vacuous socialites vying for the limelight with the sort of excessive ego-prancing for which 17th century France is infamous.  Magdelon (Catherine Nola) and Cathos (Nicci Reuben), are the sickly-sweet high-born Parisian maidens in question.  Their father Gorgibus (Geoff Allen) is eager to marry them off, but they are particular, objecting to their latest suitors’ proposals on their first meeting – "Nothing could be more tradesmanlike!"

Potentially more agreeable matches are found in Russell Pickering’s facaetiously charming Marquis de Mascarille, who never rises without having half a dozen wits in his company, and Andrew Merrie’s charmingly facaetious Vicomte de Jodelet.  Each fellow is so righteously impressed with himself that the girls almost don’t stand a chance.  They manage hold their own with these vapid ponces however, and it concludes in a way that might be satisfying if you actually cared for a single character besides the maid (more on that later).

Falstie-Jensen appears to have created The Rehearsal as a kind of sequel-come-modern remake of the Molière play.  In the notes he reasons that as it was a state-of-the-art satire in its day, it must be brought into the here and now in order to remain true to the work.

In the original, the cast and director played themselves rehearsing a play for the king.  In this Aucklified version, the company are working hard in anticipation of the arrival of Bob, the man who is paying them all (Allen), who wants to see how they’re coming along.  The ‘cast’ themselves are a nicely portrayed cross section of actor types, from professional to prima donna.  Many tasty in-jokes to be enjoyed here.  Our protagonist, director-actor Gilroy (Andrew Merrie) is routinely obnoxious to his cast and obsequious to his superior.  Merrie’s performance is somewhat contrived, and although the nature of the piece gives cause to wonder how intentional it is, it doesn’t always really work.

Hans and Peter (Richard Rugg and Michael Downey), the sound and light technicians, wryly observe the indulgent dramas and excessive posing, even as we the audience do.  My one complaint would be they didn’t swear nearly enough to be true theatre technician stereotypes.

Both plays in this production have definite moments, yet come short of underpinning the transparent facades of all their characters with much real depth.  The most notable exception is the highlight performances by Eve Gordon in both plays.  As Marotte, the maid triumphant, in Precious Maidens, she quietly celebrates her freedom from the shackles of constant expectations suffered by the gentry.  As Aurelie, she is the only actual French actor in the cast rehearsing The Rehearsal within The Rehearsal

It’s clear, in particular to anyone familiar with the theatre scene in Auckland, or anywhere in New Zealand, what Falstie-Jensen is saying in this pointed double-header.  Dealing with layers of realities and fictions, the Rebel Alliance have risen valiantly to the challenge to strike the optimum levels of contrast between the two.


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