Théâtre des Bouffes du Nord, Le Costume

Review in Issue 13-1 | Spring 2001

Peter Brook’s work over the last decade has focused on minimalism – small plays with small casts. And this is no exception. Le Costume is a simple tale, charmingly told, set on a square of carpet. There is no spectacle, no array of effects. What is exquisite is the measured exactness of the actors’ movements, the way they never seem false. Even set pieces, like the drunks swaying round the stage, or the ladies’ sewing circle (played by two male actors), are dexterous and controlled yet brimming with vitality. And each actor seems to share the skin of whichever character they play.

This is the kind of storytelling theatre that Brook’s journey to Africa was about. The story itself comes from South Africa – Can Temba’s strange tale of a wife punished for adultery was originally produced by Barney Simon for the Market Theatre, Johannesburg. With its abrupt shifts between despair and laughter, and its exposure of human failing, Le Costume becomes a tragicomedy operating on a universal level. There may be a dated feel about its portrayal of women, but that doesn’t detract from the power of the ending – which is all the more stunning for the simplicity of staging

There was something sacred about the ending of the performance. Whether this was the result of the reverential applause from a white middle-class audience for the work of its favourite theatre guru, or a genuine response to the journey the four black actors had taken us on, is open to debate. But for many in the audience, it was difficult to leave.

Presenting Artists
Presenting Venue
Date Seen
  1. Feb 2001

This article in the magazine

Issue 13-1
p. 27 - 28