The Massive Tragedy of Madame Bovary - Theatre ☆☆☆☆☆5

Showing from - Saturday, February 6, 2016 through till Saturday, February 27, 2016

Liverpool Everyman - Liverpool

Johanna Roberts | Wednesday, February 10, 2016

The Massive Tragedy of Madame Bovary reviewed by Johanna Roberts on Wednesday, February 10, 2016 for Downstage CentreIs there is nurse in the house? Javier Marzan and Emma Fielding in The Massive Tragedy of Madame Bovary at the Liverpool Everyman (Photo by Jonathan Keenan)

Madame Bovary? Ah yes: affairs, tragedy, suicide…basically, a bit of a downer. 


In brief, it’s not a story known for its comic element. So, it was particularly intriguing to hear that Peepolykus, known to Liverpool audiences for shows like Spyski and No Wise Men, were going to produce their own version. For those who like witty, well-structured writing, dazzling physical theatre, clever set and lighting, and remarkable comic timing, it is an evening well spent.A version promising ‘mesmeric love scenes featuring a procession of devastatingly attractive men … vermin, moustaches, wild animals, lots of French people and a nun’. Still, with a cast as talented as Emma Fielding as Emma Bovary and as herself and John Nicholson, Javier Marzan, and Johnathan Holmes as themselves and the remaining 27 parts, and with Gemma ‘Madame’ Bodinetz at the helm, whose directorial flair and courage have never failed to deliver, it had to be worth a look.


And for those who like witty, well-structured writing, dazzling physical theatre, clever set and lighting, and remarkable comic timing, it is an evening well spent. The tone is set by the opening scene, which offers the audience the ‘framing device’ or the ‘jumping off point’ into the novel, as was helpfully pointed out by the actors who, not for the last time, step out of character to offer insights into and discussion of the action, action that, as Emma points out, focuses on ‘dissatisfaction, the desire to escape, the tendency to spend more time dreaming about the lifestyle we’d like than living the one we’ve actually got.’


Comic Moments

Two rat catchers or ‘vermin extermination executives’ enter the town of Yonville just at the moment when the tale of Madame Bovary is coming to a climax. undefinedComic moments abound, both physical and verbal, with the audience frequently laughing out loud.

The set, made of blackboards and sliding doors and hidden cupboards, is as versatile as the actors, with chalk taps producing water and a chalk gramophone providing music, while the lighting and sound are, quite simply, excellent. Ah- and much French music, which is never a bad thing.


However, the evening also offers insight, pathos, and tragedy. The chandelier that drops from the ceiling to become the ‘cage crinoline’, represents how Emma, despite her education and passion, is trapped by her gender into life ‘dark corridor with a bolted door at the far end’. The silhouette scene of her wedding night, the simultaneous conversations between herself and Leon about the beauty of the sunset, and her husband and the apothecary discuss maggots, while humorously presented, show how far apart her life is from the life she might have had.


The Massive Tragedy of Madame Bovary - it would be a tragedy to miss it.


Production Information

Theatre: Liverpool Everyman

Showing Until: Saturday, February 27, 2016

Production Company: Peepolykus, e&p Liverpool, Nuffield, Bristol Old Vic, Royal Derngate & Northampton

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