Megan's Head

A place where Megan gets off her head.

Madame Touxflouwe

Said Too (or two) flower. It is a play, at Artscape’s Arena (still no ice at the bar), created and directed by Beren Belknap (who created and directed Out of Order). Madame Touxflouwe had its premier at Out The Box last year but last night was the first time I saw it.

This play has plenty of ingredients. It has a cast of strong and talented performers; James MacGregor, Johan Vermaak, Alex Halligey and Brendan Murray. It has excellent multimedia visuals and tricks. It has horror as a theme and one hellova lot of story. There is very delicious and lovely music. Put all these into a theatre blender and mix, and there should be a good slice of play on the table but there isn’t.

The idea is that there is a haunted house in which the same old ghoulish servants prepare a meal for the head haunt, Madame Touxflouwe, every night. She has them hooked into her story because she has been feeding on their memories (or something) and now there is the new guy who they want to make sure doesn’t leave so she can feed on his memories instead. There is so much story though, and so much exposition, it kinda gets in the way of the plot.

I kept on struggling to stay engaged, right from the very beginning. When we sat down James, as the terribly nervous  cleaner, was cleaning, and setting the table. And that’s how the show starts when the lights go down and come back on again. This sets the tone for an evening of endless repetition. I guess it has to do with the fact that everyone is dead, so they do the same thing every night. Only it’s quite hard for an audience to watch the same thing over and over again.

It’s the same thing with the characters; Henry (Johan) shouts and victimises, Vladimir (Brendan) moves between thug and simpering creep, and Tilly (Alex) is a silent, haunted waif. This is a great place to start but these characters don’t go anywhere. They don’t change in any way, and they don’t affect each other to change. It’s very hard to care about them. Then there is the dialogue, which is also drearily repetitive, with characters saying the exact same things over and over again. A bit like me, here.

I must confess, I started squirming about twenty minutes in. Which was not good because the show was an hour and a half long.

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2 Comments

  1. Catherine Brodie

    Incredibly, the reviewer entirely fails to mention the amazingly masterful puppetry which is the very centre-piece of this play. Madame Touxflouwe, after all, is the puppet for which the play is named. The actors achieve a remarkable feat in making a life-size puppet come to life in a startlingly believable way and infusing it with the character and movement which makes it seems absolutely real and independent of its handlers all whilst remaining visible on stage and in character. The technical skill required of an actor to remain firmly in character whilst manipulating a puppet which embodies an entirely different character (and gender) to one’s own deserves mention (and praise). For example, the Russian assassin manages (as do all the actors)to maintain the physicality of his violent, brutish character whilst simultaneously manipulating the puppet to portray her vulnerable eccentric physicality. It is the characters’ relation to the puppet and not so much to each other which is the crux of the play. I am usually a harsh critic of theatre. Whilst there are aspects of this play (and any play) which could do with some tweaking, I was, in fact, rather impressed by this piece of theatre, and this was due primarily to the skilful puppetry. This reviewer has done a disservice to her readers by producing a critique which seems to have been hastily written and entirely unreflective. Whilst she is entitled to be bored by any piece of theatre, her failure to mention the puppetry at all suggests that she must have slept through the entire piece – in which case, she should not have taken it upon herself to write the review at all. Whilst I usually welcome negative theatre reviews (since this shows an objectivity on the part of the reviewer), it is this review, and not the play, which should offer up a ‘good slice of review’ but doesn’t.

  2. megan

    The reviewer saw the puppetry and found it unremarkable, which is why no reference was made to it. And the reviewer wishes she had slept through the piece so that she wouldn’t have been as bored by the repetition, which included the same way the puppet was dealt with, every time.

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