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Un Air de Famille
During the months of June and July, Exchange Theatre brings you the production A Family Affair (Un Air de Famille) at the Drayton Theatre on Brompton Road. Originally written by Agnes Jaoui and Jean Pierre Bacri, this version is translated into English by Andy de la Tour and directed by Christine Renard.
Synopsis: In the Menard family, every Friday we meet at Henri’s small brasserie and then go out for dinner. Tonight’s family evening celebrates a special occasion as it is Yoyo’s birthday, the daughter-in-law of Madame Menard. However, the evening which should have followed as usual is completely thrown by the event that Arlette, Madame Menard’s other daughter-in-law, has decided to leave Henri to think things over. This leads to an evening of heated discussions where tensions build up as secrets are revealed, which makes us think tonight’s family affair may not resolve itself so easily…
The Menard family consists of Madame Menard, the mother, her two sons, Phillipe and Henri, and her daughter named Betty. Add to this small bunch Yoyo, Phillipe’s wife, and Denis who works as a waiter at Henri’s café, and you get an assemble of very different temperaments and potential explosive arguments.
Of course every family has its little quarrels and diverging opinions which once in a while collide, however the Menard family take it to a whole new level. Armelle’s absence triggers the re-emergence of past quarrels, such as the decoration of the café, the mother’s favouritism and Betty’s unlady-like character. Themes such as sexism, family, couple drama and the ability for a person to change are all covered through the family gathering, but with the use of humour and light-heartedness. Some parts may have been slightly lengthy and unnecessary, but these moments are rare and the play mostly keeps a nice pace.
In regards to the stage set up, it perfectly works to put us in the ambiance of a small brasserie. The theatre being of a small size, the stage is close and the audience has close proximity with the actors. With the decoration of a very modest café with wooden furniture and art nouveau posters on the walls, the audience is immersed from the start in the atmosphere. From Eddy Mitchell to Johnny Hallyday, the music brings us back to the 70s.
The cast is fantastic and give off great energy. All of them manage to portray their role very well, from Phillipe, the obnoxious and self-centred individual, to Henri, the less successful and simple minded brasserie owner. Special mention goes to Carole Speed who superbly succeeds in her interpretation of Madame Menard.
Overall, this is an entertaining comedy play which portrays with success a series of family dramas in the context of a family meal, with a second act which will not leave you indifferent. Definitely a must-see this summer if you are a fan of French theatre.
First impressions from the audience:
'A really enjoyable evening. I would definitely recommend it.'
'Great actors and dialogue'.