Madame X at the Brockley Jack
Madame X is a sensitively updated, highly compelling new version of what is probably Alexandre Bisson’s most famous play, La Femme X. Written in 1908, the original script and early production arguably reflects (and inspired) many of the most convincing and beloved plots and styles from the 20th century, permeating into films, literature and other theatre. This mesmerising, artfully directed rewrite by Simon James Collier is essentially a dark tragedy, almost verging on melodrama. It captures the theatricality of the original whilst showcasing a standout, grittily realistic central performance.
Jacqueline Floriot can be seen as an early Thérèse Desqueyroux, a woman driven to desperate choices and a life of depravity through being caught between her responsibility to an unsatisfactory husband (Matthew Swann) and her powerful love for her son (Corbin Joss Furstenberg). Chloe Fontaine as Jacqueline produces an exemplary, emotionally intelligent performance completely in keeping with the classic setting, but intensely realistic. The supporting cast is equally committed. Though some of the characters do not develop in complexity – they serve to reflect society’s attitudes towards Jacqueline rather than being fully realised in the writing – each is played with a confidence and directness that is refreshing in this age of sub-textual and psychoanalytical drama.
The play unashamedly celebrates its French roots with the use of an emotive Edith Piaf score and a traditional, detailed set, lit to great effect in the palette of a black-and-white film. Spotlights are cleverly and sparingly employed to focus on Jacqueline’s moments of reckoning and hubris, whilst the costumes reflect the faded glamour of old France. Overall, this creates a production which feels rich in its literary and contextual history and gorgeously indulgent to watch. Through all of this, the play loses none of its potential to shock and move audiences, making it a thoroughly enjoyable night at one of South London’s bravest venues.
Madame X is on at Brockley Jack Studio Theatre from 23rd June until 11th July 2015, for further information or to book visit here.