Yorkshire Playhouse 2017 Season: The Madwoman of Chaillot

by Mitchell Roush

Sometimes the line between fantasy and reality is blurry.  Comical to a point of silly; intelligent to the point of profundity; and absurd to a flirtatious point with reality.  Such is why good art survives the test of time--a delicious blend of social commentary wrapped in the shiny package of enjoyable entertainment.

One thing is certain, Jean Giraudoux’s, The Madwoman of Chaillot, is just that.

It’s equal parts fable, comedy, and not-quite-fantasy creating an evening of laughter-laced theatre while championing the underdog.

The play is set at the Cafe Chez Francis.

A group of promoters plot to tear up Paris in order to unearth the oil which a prospector believes he has located in the neighborhood.

These grandiose plans come to the attention of The Madwoman of Chaillot who is ostensibly not normal in her mind but who is soon shown to be the very essence of practical worldly goodness and common sense.  She sees through the crookedness of the prospector and insists that the world is being turned into an unhappy place by the thieves and those who are greedy for worldly goods and power.

At a tea party attended by other "mad" women of Paris, she brings together representatives of the despoilers of the earth and wreckers of its happiness, and has them tried and condemned to extermination.

In a scene which mounts into the realms of high poetic comedy, she sends the culprits one by one, lured by the scent of oil and undreamed-of riches, into a bottomless pit which opens out of her cellar. The exodus of the wicked is accompanied by another and more beautiful miracle: Joy, justice and love return to the world again.

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The Yorkshire Playhouse couldn’t be more excited to bring an icon of international theatre to York’s community!

Very seldom is a small theatre able to tap into the vessels of history by bringing to life a work carrying as much social significance as it does time-defying comedy.  The Madwoman of Chaillot history travels with award-winning performances from the likes of Katharine Hepburn and Angela Lansbury.  Indeed, a special opportunity has come along that dares to ask of its audience:

  • Who are the marginalized?

  • What are their rights?

  • And has everyone gone crazy?!

Directed by talented playhouse fixture, Karla Ott, a more perfect match of script and storyteller could not be conjured.  What’s sure to be a memorable and thought-provoking romp will undoubtedly highlight the talents of many the community has to offer.

Commonly listed among the Top 20 European Plays of the 20th Century, you’ll see why the New York Drama Critics’ Circle lauds:

“....One of the most interesting and rewarding plays to have been written within the last twenty years...pure gold, with no base metal...and having an enveloping and irresistible humor.”