THE new production “Je Suis Invisible!” that opened on 26 March at the Théâtre de Carouge’s impressive temporary venue La Cuisine derives it’s comedic inspiration from Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
But its winning, madcap charm owes greatly to the modernised, offbeat interpretation its given by British-born director Dan Jemmett based on an approachable, down-to-earth but still lyrical translation into modern-day French by his longstanding collaborator Mériam Korichi.
Familiar but new
As with “Shake“, his adaptation of Shakespeare’s Twelth Night for the 2016 Edinburgh International Festival, which was set in a 1970s seaside holiday resort complete with beach huts, Jemmett places “Je Suis Invisible!” in Shakespeare’s classic forest setting but one that also serves at one point as a modern-day campsite complete with sleeping bags, and a vibrant coral-pink camper van, the source of much hijinks and the comings-and-goings of the central characters.
The van has additional resonance given that the role of Shakespeare’s “mechanicals” or laborours in A Midsummer Night’s Dream are replaced in this updated version with a group of auto mechanics (who also double as amateur actors preparing for a play).
The storyline remains the same as in the original, however, replete with all the familiar characters so beloved by fans of the play, and Jemmet’s troupe of six talented actors brings these 13 personalities to vivid life with bravado, versatility and an apparent ease that belies what must be frantically paced behind-the-scenes costume changes.
An inspired, eclectic musical soundtrack that jumps from Opera to Roy Orbison and Ragtime to Reggae and a few charming moments of Fred Astaire singing “Cheek to Cheek”, lightheartedly but meaningfully enhances what’s happening onstage while setting a distinct mood for each moment.
An invitation to take part
Dan Jemmett found inspiration for his updated interpretation from a simple, original source: One day, a line from the play started running through my mind: “I am invisible”. It’s what Oberon says to the audience when he wants to shield himself from view in order to better observe the lovers’ antics.
“This simple phrase evokes something important for me in Shakespeare’s theatrical world. His work here is playful, almost childlike, and invites the audience to take an active and imaginative part in creating – alongside the actors – the reality in which he makes us believe.”
Joyful, mysterious and accessible
By making “Je Suis Invisible!” such a joyful, humorous and accessible experience, while maintaining a sense of magic and mystery, Jemmet has succeeded in creating the inclusive experience of which he speaks, one where the audience can easily lose itself and feel part of the reality being skillfully created before them. ♣
Tip: For those needing a little help with French dialogue, English subtitles will be provided on Wednesday, 3rd and Friday, 5th of April on a limited number of iPads, as well as overhead (book seats higher up for better viewing).
I was a guest of the Théâtre de Carouge for its premiere of Je Suis Invisible!, and the opinions expressed here are my own.
Je Suis Invisible!
Théatre de Carouge
26 March – 14 April 2019
Tuesday to Sat: 7.30pm/Sun: 5pm
► Subtitled in French and English on Wed, 3rd and Fri, 5th April
Age: 12 and over
Length: 1h50 (no intermission)
Location: La Cuisine and Tickets
Main photo caption: The enchanted lovers Bottom (David Ayala) and Titania, Queen of the Fairies (Valérie Crouzet) by the coral pink moss-covered camper van, the main prop in Dan Jemmet’s fanciful, rambuctious take on A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Photo: ©Sandy Korzekwa.