An Absolute Turkey
By Georges Feydeau
Over the course of the season, our assistant directors and student dramaturgs will be compiling dramaturgical resources relating to each production as it develops. Below are some links to websites which relate to the history of the play, the biography of the playwright, and sites that contextualize and, we hope, shed light on the directorial approach to the dramatic material.
We hope you find these resources of interest.
Georges Feydeau (8 December 1862 – 5 June 1921)
Georges Feydeau, often referred to as the father of French farce, was born in 1862 in Paris.
Feydeau wrote during the Belle Epoque era in France, also known as our Gilded Age. A period of scientific and technological discovery, the era was also one of rapid upward mobility. It thus provided Feydeau with ample opportunity and abundant subject matter to ridicule and highlight the excess of self-importance created by the burgeoning merchant and professional middle classes. Feydeau would go on to write 26 plays before his death in 1921.
A playwright by age twenty with Par la fenêtre (Through the Window), Feydeau was one of the many playwrights of what came to be termed "Boulevard theatre." From there he broke away and became known as the master of the variant genre, vaudeville.
Feydeau’s plays focus on satirizing the life of the middle class life, or the bourgeoisie. Holding true to the essentially frivolous nature of vaudeville, and how, as his contemporary Albert Capus explains, “life is the struggle of the human against chance," Feydeau frequently displays a lack of any moral judgement where his characters and their actions are concerned. He ridicules equallythe innocent, gullible, and naive, along with those whose failings, indiscretions, and moral fallibilities fuel his dramatic arcs. (The same might perhaps be said of his personal life.)
This holds true for An Absolute Turkey (Le Dindon). Written in 1896, this play, specifically the translation by Nicki Frei and Sir Peter Hall, displays all of Feydeau’s classic themes. In this case, a "turkey" refers to a fool, but never is just one character the fool. The flood of each character’s comedic flaws builds into a frenzy of complications as we followa plot that pivots on the subject of revenge.
The UR International Theatre Program's production dispenses with the traditional elements of farce stagings, notably the use of doors, and substitutes an abundant use of invention, projections, and sound effects in their stead, all produced by actors playing foley artists.