East West Theatre brings us “The Learned Ladies”, a reinterpretation of the play with the same name by Molière running this weekend at The Pearl. It’s a show you shouldn’t miss for the world!
An almost 400-year-old but never outdated comedy, the play satirizes the intellectual snobs of the 17th century. The way the characters in “The Learned Ladies” show off their “learning”; as a sign of status made me think of this very recent piece of news about status display.
Molière’s witty and hilarious comedy introduces Henriette (Awesta Zarif), who wishes to marry Clitandre (Jerome Mazet) having only her father’s approval. However, the father, Chrysale (Mark Edwards) cannot stand up to his wife, the intellectual Philaminte (Mirren Childs), who has another suitor in mind – the pretentious and pompous poet Trissotin (Micheli). Henriette’s sister, Armande (Kate Billington), and her aunt Belise (Helene Meunier) are the other learned ladies of the house, supporting Philamite in her pompous display of knowledge and credulity.
We have seen a very fresh take on a classic work by Director David Johansson who has managed to bring together such a colourful bunch of bewigged heads.
Johansson, the tall glass of Swedish, French, Tunisian water, as he calls himself, explains in his note on the play how he is very excited of being part of the thriving expat community in Shanghai and thus motivates his choice of working with people from all the corners of the world, including: Awesta Zarif – USA, Swati Simha – India, Charles Slater – Australia, Jerome Mazet – France, Philip Boafo – Ghana or Micheli of Shanghainese and Italian descent, just to name a few.
Standing out is the role of courageous Martine (Swati Simha), the maid of the house, who only uses plain language and small words, but manages to shout out a more clear view on the matter than any of the other female characters. It’s a small role, but Swati Simha brings so much to the cheerfulness of the show.
Trissotin is so powerful and played very well by Micheli (sucked-in red lips and all that burlesque jazz), that maybe Clitandre should also be portrayed with a bit more courage. Jerome Mazet as Clitandre is, however, charming in his very first stage appearance, as he brings along his French accent, much suitable to the play.
The minimalist set showing as main pieces the maternal face ruling over the household from her portrait and a pile of books to endorse the appreciation these women have for learning is well suited to the modern venue that is The Pearl.
For those of you who thought the play will be over in 2 hours, well, it’s not – expect about 3 hours of laughing out loud!
East West Theatre is Shanghai’s first English-language amateur theatre group. They have produced 28 critically-acclaimed shows since 2006.
“The Learned Ladies” is on at the Pearl only until June 22, so you’d better hurry to grab your tickets! Bookings and enquiries are made via [email protected] / 15821435650 / www.eastwesttheatre.com
Tickets :150 RMB in advance, 200 RMB on the door // June 18 – June 22 / starts at 8.00 p.m. – 11.00 p.m. // The Pearl, 471 Zhapu Lu near Wujin Lu | 虹口区
By Andreea Dragut
[Photo credit: Eric J. Heise / via East West Theatre]