Huis Clos Baron’s Court Theatre 10 October


Hell is murky!

I read through the text before attending this French-language production, secure in the knowledge that otherwise I might not understand very much, and it seemed pretty well and economically done to me.  Then in the theatre–a suitably warm cellar beneath a pub–it seemed rather worthy.

As everyone knows, three characters (Ines, Garcin and Estelle) are left to torture each other for eternity, and one of them (in fact, it’s Garcin) says ‘Hell is other people’.  That sounds worryingly orthodox, and in fact it’s clear that they have all knowingly chosen evil (as well as being deeply unpleasant).  Or in more detail, Estelle is an infanticidal slut, Garcin is a coward and wife-abuser, and Ines is a predatory (to the point of homicide) lesbian.

I enjoyed this incongruity

So as the action developed, it became clear that none of them could escape, because of their co-dependence.  The point being made was that they needed the other to validate their own existence, so that even when the door opened Garcin couldn’t run away from Ines and get it on with Estelle.

But they were hardly three orbiting bodies either, since Ines was manipulating the other two.  So was she the representative of the author in his own creation?  Patricia Morejon certainly seemed to give the most realistic and nuanced performance of the three–possibly because she had more to work with–while the other two were really brutes, though Garcin (a very straightforward performance by David Furlong) got to mouth a lot of existentialist bollocks.  Claire Meade as Estelle imitated brainlessness pretty effectively.

As for ‘Hell is other people’, what Sartre meant Garcin to mean by this was surely not:

i)   it’s nice to spend time with nice people and bad to spend time with bad people;

or even

ii)  your own actions will make other people hell to you if you are a bad person;


iii)  worrying about other people’s perceptions of you will turn your life `into a hell of inauthenticity [this was demonstrated by what the characters could see or hear of the life left on earth, as well as their reactions to each other].

Actually under (iii) there’s rather more evidence it may save you from prison or the back ward of a psychiatric hospital, but I digress…Surely Ines really is Sartre, the great mind confined to a few Parisian cafés?

The Second Empire canapés were played by kitchen chairs painted different colours, and the Bronze de Barbedienne by a piece of wood.

Tags: , , ,

2 Responses to “Huis Clos Baron’s Court Theatre 10 October”

  1. Susan Lawson Says:

    The bronze was played by a column – not a piece of wood?! The column being the immovable Sartrian object – as in the Barbedienne (NB there is no single artist called Barbedienne, it merely refers to a manufacturer of various cheap bronzes) – as in our desperate clinging to a single (cheap manufactured and immovable) idea of ourselves. The chairs were archetypal colour-coded seats (as in the text of the play) for archetypal ego-coded symbolic characters. And you’ll find that the set was based too on the monochromes and monogolds of the artist Yves Klein – a part of Sartre’s own universe, the play in fact being set out of time and not in the Second Empire. I designed the set by the way. I’m sorry you found it wooden but I do hope this will add some insight!

  2. notesofanidealist Says:

    Thanks for your very interesting comment–I think the fault is mine for being excessively superficial. I only saw the b de B from a glancing angle and meant to look at it properly in my way out. As I say above, I read through the French text beforehand and so the canapes and the bronze de Barbedienne perhaps struck me rather more than they would otherwise have. (I could imagine what the sofas might be like, but had to look up Barbedienne going to the play.)

    My complaint is with the piece itself–if it worked better for me in print than on the stage I think the fault is Sartre’s or mine rather than yours.

    On the way back to the Underground afterwards, a young woman with a North American accent ran up to me and was keen to say how good she had found it, and that such a level of intensity was new to her. (I replied with the idea that perhaps it was a philosophical dialogue rather than a play.) But perhaps she didn’t do a blog posting of her own…

    Anyway, thanks for putting something different on, and in a different language as well!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: