The Would-Be Gentleman
By Moliere (Translated and adapted by Bruce Grainger)
7,8 & 9 April, 2011
M. Jordain is ridiculed by his wife and Nicole
Cleonte & Covielle discuss the behaviour of Lucile & Nicole
Dorante describes a proper gentleman's menu
M. Jourdain, now a mamamouchi, attempts to give Lucile to the Oojah's son
The foolish but wealthy Monsieur Jourdain has but one aim in life, to rise above his middle-class background so that he is accepted as an aristocratic gentleman. To this end he orders splendid new clothes and applies himself to learning the gentlemanly arts of fencing, dancing, music and philosophy. In doing so, he makes an utter fool of himself, despite the efforts of his sensible wife. Meanwhile, Dorante, a cash-strapped nobleman sponges on him, while flattering his snobbery by promising to introduce him to a wealthy, widowed Marchioness. Jourdain’s dreams of social-climbing mount higher as he aspires to his daughter, Lucille, marrying a nobleman instead of Cléonte, whom she loves. Cléonte and his valet Covielle trick Jourdain into believing that Lucille is being courted by foreign royalty and that he himself is to be ennobled at a special ceremony. It is this ridiculous ceremony which bring the play to its hilarious climax.
Why perform a translation of a seventeenth century French play? Well there can be many reasons, but we chose this play because it is very entertaining. It has a reasonable number of speaking parts including some delightful cameo roles, and we could see ways in which it could be adapted to involve still more people. Besides, we had a good modern translation and we always welcome a challenge.
Although the period in which it was written is quite close to that of last year’s play, The Beggar’s Opera, the structure is very different. The Acts of the play, five in all, are separated by entr’acte dances which spring from the action; in the original these dances would have been ballets. We have tried to retain the flamboyance of the period through the set, costume and, where appropriate, the language. We hope, however, that the blend of accents and the more modern colloquial speech will emphasise the timelessness of the underlying theme and humour. The larger than life characters reveal attitudes we can recognise today. There will always be those who put on airs, those who seek to take advantage of them and those who sponge on the well-to-do. Someone pretentious but gullible will inevitably be taken for a ride.
Enjoy the absurdities of the plot and appreciate the underlying truths!
The music that I have composed for this production of The Would-Be Gentleman covers a range of styles and idioms. Initially I had considered writing music to suit the period in which it is set. However, I quickly found myself moved to see each musical contribution as a separate entity, and to reflect specifically the sentiment, dance, words or characters of that particular moment in the play. I feel that this resonates with the humour and themes of the play, which are timeless and translate effectively through history and across continents. I was also influenced by the instruments that I have at my disposal – when offered a willing saxophonist, it seemed only right to give some opportunity for showing off the versatility of the instrument and its affinity with more contemporary styles such as jazz. I hope that the variety of my compositions enhance the universal message of the play.