'No New Insights' In Retelling Of Gigi At The Tabard Theatre

Penny Flood says oversanitised telling fails to shock

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This is the story of Gigi (Daisy May) a young teenage girl born into a family of courtesans, who is being instructed by her Grandmother Mme Alvarez (Prue Clarke) and aunt Alicia de St Ephlam (Pamela Miles) to become a courtesan herself. This would make her the third generation high class call girl in the family.

The play's based on a novella by French writer Colette, written in 1945. It was controversial then as it is now. This production, directed by Mark Giesser, has been adapted from the stage play by Anita Loos, who also wrote the screenplay for the Marilyn Monroe blockbuster Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. There are parallel themes here with strong women using men while making it seem that they are being used by men. It has its funny moments but there's nothing really funny about the subject matter here.

Gigi is to become a prostitute, albeit a high class one, without being given a choice. It's gristly, although the way its being handled they could be preparing her for a tea dance at the local Women's Institute. The most sympathetic character is Gigi's mother Andree (ZoeTeverson) who has obviously been damaged by the family firm and is trying to make her own way as an opera singer, only to be mocked by the very people who should be supporting her. They're not very nice and they get off lightly here.

There's plenty of wriggle room to take a new look, a new angle, a little criticism wouldn't have come amiss.

Male interest is the millionaire playboy Gaston (Richard Lynson), old enough to be Gigi's father, who has a creepy relationship with her aunt, which isn't properly explained. To begin with, Gaston sees Gigi only as a child with whom he plays piquet and supplies with liquorice rats tails. This all goes wrong when rolling around on the floor with her he realises that she’s not a baby anymore and has to hastily excuse himself.

On this realisation he decides to be one to deflower her, an idea that the women all approve of, but Gigi has her own ideas. The feminist in me was screaming good for you, get an education and get a proper job, but she ruins it by agreeing to marry him.

Patchy direction doesn't help. Gigi behaves like a 12 year old although at 16 she would have had more self awareness and a better understanding of what's going on around her, and she wouldn't have been seen dead in those bloomers in any century. The grandmother would be much more sly, and her back story of taking a Spanish identity could have been developed just a little bit. And slips in the timing mean that the jokes sometimes fall flat. However, it's full marks to the cast who deliver faultless performances throughout.

November 9, 2015