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Le Costume at the Young Vic

Marion Marples

When Philemon (Isaac Kounde) surprises his beautiful and cherished wife Mathilde (Sara Martins) in bed with another man, he struggles to keep calm.

The lover escapes through the window, minus his suit. Philemon insists that the suit should be given full hospitality. Chastened Mathilde now has to observe wifely formalities, which although demeaning soon to lead to self-improvement and becoming a pillar of society.With Philemon's permission she organises a party to thank all her new friends. but she fails to remember to invite the lover's suit; the joy of the party is soon extinguished.

Although it is a universal tale, this short tragi-comedy takes life from the pre-Apartheid Sophiatown suburb of Johannesburg and speaks deeply of the servitude of the black population, given dignity only in the stories, faces and music of their own multicultural neighbourhood. The early hour of 5.30am when the blacks prepare for work has never been so explicitly depicted.

Peter Brook's production is sparse, and in the round rather like the Globe. The actors relate the story directly to the audience, particularly the expressive dreadlocked Maphikela (Sotigui Kouate). The French is pretty clear and surtitles explain the missing phrases,though I felt the translation did not really do the original justice. Mime and music complete the repertoire of the cast of four which includes Rachid Djaidani as the lover and everyon else.

Young Vic

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