L’effet du Serge

Thursday, 14 October, 2010

Communicating through eccentricity

Ulster Bank Dublin Theatre Festival 2010 – Samuel Beckett Theatre, Trinity College, Dublin 2 – 7.30pm (75 minutes) 3pm matinee only on October 17 – October 13-17


Serge, the central character (played by Gaetan Vourc’h), is an eccentric man living alone, for whom the highlight of the week is a visit by one or more of his friends on Sunday, when he performs a short and bizarre show (often involving special effects of some kind) for ‘one to three minutes’, after which the person gives a brief opinion of the show and leaves.

Serge’s very bland existence outside of his shows makes his quirky sense of creativity all the more fascinating, once it emerges.  Quesne is able to hold the attention with very ordinary moments, using silence effectively.  Vourc’h’s performance is close to clowning, as Serge calmly accepts the strange creations of his mind.

Serge’s character is highly ritualistic before and after his shows – always the same three drinks on offer, always bringing people in through the door rather than the patio, always offering to take his visitors’ jackets and offer them a seat.  His life is quite controlled, almost obsessively so.

It is almost as if his only way of communicating with other people or expressing himself is through his short shows each week.  At one point, there is a wonderful moment of frisson between him and a young female visitor, but his limited communication skills let him down.

His ‘audience’ of friends are almost as fascinating, as their reaction to his shows moves from astonishment to mild amusement.  At times it has the immediacy of reality TV, watching the reactions of ordinary people to strange stimuli.  There are strong elements of the ‘comedy of embarrassment’ in their reactions – without being cringe-inducing.

Quesne’s practice as this show tours is to combine both his regular performers and local volunteers among Serge’s ‘audience’.  This is a wise choice, as each nationality reacts in different ways to the same stimuli, making it easier for the real ‘off-stage’ audience to relate to the ‘on-stage’ audience’s reaction.  It appeared as if the local volunteers did not know the content of each of Serge’s little shows in advance, so spontaneous were their reactions.

Cast Credits: Serge – Gaetan Vourc’h; Other performers – Isabelle Angotti, Rodolphe Auté, Fiona Curry, Christine Kostick, Juno Kostick, Jeremy Robert Kemp, Mick O’Rourke, Emilie Rousset.

Company Credits: Conceived, directed and designed – Philippe Quesne.

(c) Colman Higgins 2010

Reviewed 13 October 2010


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