‘The Captive’ is a translation of the 1926 French play known as ‘La Prisonniere’, which was written by Édouard Bourdet; He was married to the poet, Catherine Pozzi and they had a son Claude Bourdet. While serving in the military during World War I, Bourdet met a fellow officer who told him of a similar unhappy marriage, thus giving Bourdet the idea for the play. One can only wonder how much of this story is also autobiographical.
Murdoch Theatre Company’s latest quality production is of this forbidden love story, which at the time was so controversial that the entire cast was arrested for indecency. Many books were destroyed by the disgusted, as a result, an original copy can now fetch about $700.
This powerful and superb, two-hour play for adults is being presented in Studio 411 – across from Car park 4 – within Murdoch University’s South Street campus, Murdoch on the Friday 11th and Saturday 12th of October, at 7.00 pm. There is a 2.00 pm matinee on Saturday the 12th. The production is managed by Jordan D’Arcy.
The Scene: Modern day. In the Paris home of politician, Monsieur Montcel and his student daughters.
The set: was designed and built by Julia Parks. It is simple but effective, Irene’s bedroom and Jacques’ office.
A line of 1.5-metre high flats stretches across the rear of the stage. There are no drapes. Two of the flats are decorated with hand-painted wallpaper, these rotate to give the impression of the two different venues. Irene’s bed with a flamingo design duvet, becomes a settee with black cover in Jacques’ home. The girls’ makeup counter becomes Jacques’ office desk.
James Jury operated the lighting design created by Des Smalberger and Simeon Brudenell. The lighting levels were slowly and subtly changed with the mood – this can be a risky effect, but it worked well this time.
Stage manager Phil Bialis proved his skills when at the end of Act 1 a team of stagehands and actors moved in and rapidly changed the Montcel’s home to the lounge room / office of Jacques.
Irene de Montcel (Beth Williams) and her young ingenuous sister, Gisele (Izabella Day) live in Paris with their father, Monsieur De Montcel (Andrew O’Connell). Having accepted the post as Ambassador to Rome, the father plans to take his two daughters and the maid Josephine (Bee Tandy) to the Eternal City with him. Irene says she wants to stay in Paris to continue her art classes, but her father finds she has skipped classes for weeks; he suspects her refusal has something to do with the family of his friend, Mr D’Aiguines (Jarvys McQueen-Mason).
Rapidly losing friends and feeling cornered, Irene clutches at a name, selecting that of a wealthy old school friend, Jacques Virieu (Jacob Murphy) whom – she lies to her father – is on the verge of proposing to her. Thrilled, Mr De Montcel agrees that Irene can stay in Paris, if supervised by Miss March (Andrea Kendrick) the housekeeper.
Jacques is horrified at the pretend engagement, as he has a secret love of his own and suspects he is being used as a cover by Irene, who wants to be near another man. The trouble is Jacques really does love Irene and in order discover Irene’s real partner, calls upon the help of his maid Georges (Tiarn Hutton) and best friend, Françoise Meillant (Domenic Scriva).
Can Irene overcome her difficulties and find true love?
This play has been VERY well directed by the two first-time directors, Zenna Newman-Santos and Sarah Papadoulis. You can see the huge amount of thought that has gone into each and every character by both these directorial debutants and the talented actors. Even those with minor parts showed a full understanding of the emotion and the complex relationships. The storyline has love (both forbidden and unrequited), anger, the search for truth, intrigue, mental challenges and despair, all clearly demonstrated by the well-rehearsed cast. Beth William’s performance in particular showed every nuance of her suffering. Some scenes were extremely demanding for the actors, but they showed full confidence throughout.
The Murdoch Theatre Company has an excellent record for producing consistent quality. This is a play for those who appreciate gifted acting and subtle themes. MOST enjoyable.