Evelyne De la Chenelière’s Une Vie Pour Deux (Flesh and Other Fragments of Love) follows Simone (Violette Chauveau) and Jean (Jean-François Casabonne) on their retreat to Ireland in an attempt to rescue their marriage. When Jean comes across the corpse of the drowned Mary (Rachel Graton), his fascination with her makes Simone insecure about the state of their marriage. Théâtre Français is currently presenting the play in its original French at the Berkeley Street Theatre, with English surtitles at Wednesday, Friday and Saturday performances.
Gabriel Tsampalieros has designed a beautiful set for the production: a large rectangular structure located center stage, with an imprint of a body in it. Not only does the piece function as the beach where Mary is found, but in conjunction with a clever lighting designed by Caroline Ross, it is transformed into many other settings as well.
Mary’s haunting presence is heightened both by the choice to have her voice amplified and by the calm, calculative demeanour that Graton skillfully portrays. In contrast to Mary’s presence, Chauveau is compelling in her delivery of Simone’s frantic monologues, as she desperately tries to save her marriage.
Une Vie Pour Deux was translated into English and premiered as Flesh and Other Fragments of Love last year at the Tarragon Theatre. It is clear that certain liberties can be taken with a translation of a work mounted separately, without surtitles. As someone who speaks fairly fluent French, but not necessarily enough to get through a night of theatre, I was paying attention to both the spoken language and the English surtitles. I did find that, as surtitles give semi-literal translations, a lot of the beautiful poetry in De la Chenelière’s text was being lost in translation.
While I would recommend fluency in French when seeing this production to fully appreciate the strength of the text, the skill of the cast and creative team is strong regardless. Théâtre Français’ Une Vie Pour Deux is a beautiful and haunting night of theatre that I highly recommend.
Une Vie Pour Deux plays at the Berkeley Street Theatre until Jan 25. For more information, visit www.theatrefrancais.com.