8 Women

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Review – 8 Women

“Dark musical-comedy-who dunnit..”
by Aline Waites for remotegoat on 03/06/08

8 WOMEN – a stage adaptation by Dumle Kogbara of the Francois Ozon film
at Lion and Unicorn until June 15

Based on a play by Robert Thomas, this was made into a movie in 2001 starring four generations of glamorous French actresses. Set in the nineteen fifties, it seems at first that it is a conventional who dunnit, with a snowbound house, a severed telephone wire and a car that won’t start. 

A man(Marcel) lies upstairs in his room with a dagger in his back – slaughtered by an unknown hand. There is no access to the house, nor can any of the occupants leave it. But here comes the twist – all the people who remain stranded in the house are female – the eight women of the title. All have a powerful motive, all suspect each other, all have a deeply hidden secret and all are inclined to burst into song at unexpected moments. There is no detective – after all the telephone wires are cut so the police cannot be summoned. It’s up to the ladies to solve the crime themselves. As they do so, the play turns from a whodunit to a black psychological comedy. As such, it encompasses many emotions and conflicts as the women attempt to relate to each other. But, finally, all is revealed without ever losing the sight of the glamour, the elegance and sophistication of the protagonists. It is a highly enjoyable and engaging movie.

Dumle Kogbara has created his script not from the original play, but from the French film using the English subtitles as guidance. Rather than use Levy’s score, he takes the theme from Mozart’s piano concerto no 17 to underscore and has cleverly fitted the lyrics to well known standard tunes – Every Time we Say goodbye, Autumn Leaves, Quizas Quizas Quizas and so on. It works pretty well, but of course it would be preferable either to use the original or have new tunes.

He has found a cast that more or less checks with the original film stars. Sylvia Andon looks lovely as Gaby (Catherine Deneuve) the wife of the deceased, and her mother, Mamy, is played by Jean Apps, filling the shoes of the queen of post war French cinema Danielle Darrieux. As Gaby’s two daughters, Suzon and Catherine, Jenna Brook and Jayne Dickinson sing, dance and act with great vivacity and Florence Kuhfeld dons heavy disguise to play Augustine, Gaby’s neurotic sister.(Isabelle Huppert). 

Particularly impressive is Kate Walsh as Chanel, the mysterious cook who sings an extremely poignant song “So not to live alone” with enormous pathos and expertise and Katharine Innes has the charisma of a young Brigitte Bardot as the sexy maid Louise, (played in the film by Emmanuelle Beart). I get the feeling that Jenny Mortier in the Fanny Ardant role as Pierette, Marcel’s sister, is a little out of her depth, as she makes no attempt to sing her bravura song about living free and I think it is a production fault opening the play with her burlesque dance routine, which detracts a little from the glamour of the whole.

Nevertheless an enjoyable pastiche, loads of cynical fun and well worth tripping along to Kentish Town.

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