Le Foulard (or The Veil) is a somewhat ominous title for a play, let alone that dreaded theatrical angst receptacle, the one-woman-show.
Having nothing but the poster to go by, I came expecting to grit my teeth and endure an hour of Simone de Beauvoir-infused interpretive dance peppered with meaningful silences during which the audience was expected to reflect upon something…large. Certainly something larger than themselves at any rate.
And oddly, that’s basically what I got, but without all the gritting, pondering and enduring. Paris-based Lucy Hopkins’ new show Le Foulard (if you Google it actually means ‘the scarf’, but that doesn’t sound very impressive) is impressive. I mean, really impressive.
It takes an original mind to play with stereotypes and ideas about theatre and still produce a piece that is received with open delight and surprise by an audience. We all consider ourselves ahead of the game when it comes to understanding how entertainment works on us.
Hopkins plays with that through a series of wildly performed (though instantly recognisable) characters – everything from a tweedy arts boffin to an impassioned flamenco diva. From Edith Piaf to Gloria Gaynor. They’re all there and all fabulous.
Hopkins, who studied at the Jacques Lecoq school (mime and clowning, but don’t let that put you off), uses her remarkable body, and her even more remarkable sense of what to do with it and when, to make fun of anything and everything that alludes to some nefarious greater meaning ascribed to art forms. Remarkably, she does this without ever resorting to easy cruelty or mocking what the audience believes they have come to see.
Humour is so much more difficult than drama and Hopkins pulls off something truly remarkable. A funny show. Not politely funny. My-face-hurts-I-may-die-laughing-I-really-need-to-go-to-the-bathroom-right-now funny.
And whilst I can’t explain what Le Foulard is really about without sounding like an earnest 1st year philosophy student, I can say that you will never see the like of it again.