This month: A workshop evening on playing farce based on extracts from The Spelling Mistakes and The Italian Straw Hat by Eugène Labiche
In February’s play-reading we explored a classic French farce called An Italian Straw Hat by Eugene Labiche (1815 to 1888). Labiche was a prolific producer of farces, and wrote 174 plays, and The Italian Straw Hat is his most famous and popular. Written in 1851, the play is set contemporaneously in the mid 19th century. So too is the short one-Act farce The Spelling Mistakes, also set in the Parisian suburbs - likewise in an agricultural area. It is probably the most famous of Labiche’s numerous one-act plays, and has remained a popular staple of French amateur theatre, especially in schools and colleges.
The plot of The Spelling Mistakes is simple and a little ridiculous - like that of The Italian Straw Hat. Caboussat is a middle-aged agricultural merchant who aims to participate in local politics with the ambition of being elected to the national parliament. But first he must win the election for a seat to his local council and beat his rival. However, he has a major obstacle to his rise to fame, because he is dyslexic, and relies heavily on his daughter, Blanche, to help him write his speeches and communications. It doesn’t please him that, with the election coming up, his old acquaintance, Poitrinas, an eccentric amateur archeologist, arrives at his home and proposes to dig his garden in search of supposedly buried ‘Roman relics’. Poitrinas also intends to propose marriage between Blanche and his own son, Edmond, who happens to be a terrible speller, just like Caboussat. Ironically though Caboussat has no idea that Edmond has the same ‘fault’ as he does, and tries to talk Blanche out of the marriage idea, because he doesn’t want to be deprived of ‘his secretary’! A further complication for the archeological dig in Caboussat’s garden is that his manservant, Jean, has buried all the broken crockery that he has carelessly cracked and chipped during his service with the family precisely where Poitrinas proposes to carry out his ‘archeological excavations’. The arrival of the bumbling local vet, Machut, adds to the confusion of a very trying day for Caboussat and his household, but as is usually the case with Labiche’s farces, there is a felicitous ending to the temporary insanity of the farcical events.
The idea is that we will take some extracts from both farces, or either of them, to workshop in small groups in the first hour, and then try acting them out in the second hour. Roger will lead the workshopping process and Julian and Mike will offer their services as facilitators for the smaller groups. Do please join us on Tuesday March 19th at 7:30 at Colette’s, upstairs at the Fringe Club, for an enjoyable evening of workshopping these comedic scenes from one of the great French farceurs.
All are welcome.
Facilitators: Roger John, Julian Quail and Mike Ingham
All attendees are kindly reminded that you should not bring your own food and drink to consume on the Fringe Club premises. Refreshments are available at the Fringe Club.
For details and enquiry, please contact Mike Ingham at
The third Tue in each month in 2019