Jean Anouilh

The Rehearsal - Jean Anouilh

These are truly terrible people. I read once that a critic told Anouilh that he writes people whom you would never want to meet, and I agree completely. They are self-centered, pretentious, and never deal with the issues in front of them without a great deal of superficiality. The play centres on a Count and Countess, married for many years, but with "arrangements" of agreed upon, in fact known and vetted, mistresses and lovers to keep them engaged.

They do nothing; there are no higher aspirations, intellectual challenge, they simply keep up appearances and meddle in one another's affairs. What we see is the result of stagnancy, immobility, not caused by too little means, but rather caused by excess. The only moral person we see is Lucile, who works for her living, and is "brought up" by the Count as his lover..raised up as it were to the "better" class. Yet she, when confronted by the horrid behaviour of these people, leaves.

This play felt like a modern scenario for The Duchess of Malfi, only not just the gossip of court, but actual information about the lives of others. An interesting foil to what happens in duchess. Not as bloody, but in many ways just as sad.

A little gem from Anouilh:
Actors, they're quite impossible. As soon as they open their mouths, they fall head over heels in love with the sound of their own voices. And they expect us to share in their delight. No, seriously, they do. There is nothing less natural on earth than what passes for naturalism on stage. Don't go thinking it's enough to be life-like. For a start, in real life, one has to work with such terrible material. We live in a world that has completely forgotten the correct use of the semi-colon; we never finish a sentence properly, it always goes dot, dot, dot...because the mot juste always escapes us. And then that 'naturalistic' way of speaking which actors are always claiming to have. All that stammering, hesitating, 'umm'ing and 'ah'ing...why ask five or six hundred people to pay good money to sit through that? But they turn up and they love it. They recognize themselves. But the point is that theatre has got to do better than that. Life's all very well but it lacks form. Art must use every trick in the book to lend it one. To be more real than real life.