Wednesday, July 9, 2014

The Balcony - Genet (95)

This isn't a play for the faint of heart.  The Balcony is a rather involved brothel, placed in a city that has a rebellion on the outskirts.  The clients have elaborate fantasies that mostly involve themselves in a place of power.  For instance, the opening scene is of a man dressed as a bishop dealing with a penitent woman.  They are working on getting the image right so that they can project the kind of power that they lack in real life.
The contrast is provided by the actual Chief of Police, who wields power but isn't appreciated enough.  He comes to the brothel wondering if any of the clients are dressing up as him.   He's crushed to find out that no one is.  He hopes to achieve enough glory that he can justify the enormous tomb that he has planned for himself.
Yet another counterpoint is provided by a brothel worker named Chantel.  She is adopted by the revolution as an image of their virtues and designs.  She thinks that her training will make her ready for such a role (and her head is turned a bit by the attention). Whereas the men are tawdry, she is sublime in her imagery, but she's still a projection, an image, rather than a source of actual power.

The stage directions call for what sounds like an elaborate set up involving mirrors and sectional costumes.  The play debuted in 1956, in London, and I imagine it was something of a shock then.  Let me just say that this isn't anything that will be selected for a high school production . . .
I liked 'The Balcony' but this isn't really my style.  It's raw and unreal.  I found myself comparing it to 'Macbeth'.  Both plays are about power, but it's easy to imagine a real life Macbeth and (somewhat less so) a Lady Macbeth.  This isn't true of the players in the Balcony which are blown up representations, rather than actual people.  Well, to each their own.

Next up is #94, 'The Brother's by Terence, a playwright of ancient Rome. 

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