The Madwoman of Chaillot

by Jean Giraudoux adapted by Maurice Valency

Venue: Studio 58 , Langara College
Dates: 29 Jan -15 Feb 2004

Reviewer: Jane Penistan


Director James Fagan Tait Costume design Marina Szijarto Set design Bryan Pollock Lighting design Itai Erdal Stage manager Joel Etkin

From left to right - Samantha Madely as 'The Madwoman of Chaillot', Sophia 
Stewart as 'Gabrielle' and Anthony Johnston as 'Constance; photo by Andree Lanthier

The Madwoman of Chaillot is one of Giraudoux's later plays and was not published until after his death. A glorious indictment of urban destruction for the sake of profit, this fantastic and humourous satire is enthusiastically and joyously performed at Studio 58 under the direction of James Fagan Tait.

In the large cast with several actors playing more than one role, there are no weak performances. Each one of Giraudoux's multitude of street characters and greedy business entrepreneurs is well defined. To mention one performer would necessitate noting the whole company individually. The acting standard is very high as is the exploration and presentation of the different roles. The Ragpicker, The Deaf Mute, Irma and Pierre, the Sewer Man, and the Prospector, the waiter, the retarded Josephine, the procession of business men descending into the cellar, and all the other characters of this mythical Paris are there, as individuals and as members of a well knit company who play together and sing and dance with elan. None of Giraudoux's sly humour or satire is lost in this production, where the pace is varied but never flags. The energy level remains high throughout.

The side walk café set of the first act is transformed to the basement of the countess's house in Chaillot by the clever  





use of lighting. The costumes are a wonderful amalgam of rags and riches, belle epoch and 20th century. As Maurice Valency has adapted the script, so James Fagan Tait has done some cross gender casting to fit his talented company. The baron is now a baroness, Nicola Correia-Damude in a 1920s dress and well manipulated overlong cigarette holder. The juggler has become a sinuous gymnast, Seija Halonen in a white lace bustled hobble skirt. Anthony Johnston is a regal Madwoman of Passy, managing his/her flowing skirts and wide-brimmed hat with elegance as s/he plays with her unseen lapdog and takes umbrage at the women's remarks. Aurelia, the Madwoman of Chaillot, in an ornate and youthful pink floral dress, drifts through the first act as the well-loved and well-known lady of the neighbourhood. Samantha Madely has charm and a nice sense of leadership as Aurelia, the Madwoman of Chaillot, taking charge of the tea party, planning for the frustration of the oil prospectors in the second act, but also drifting into the fantasies of old age with grace. This is a very well sustained performance.

This is a visibly pleasing presentation of a beautifully constructed play well performed and is a credit to Studio 58.

The Madwoman of Chaillot runs at Studio 58, at Langara College, 100 West 49th Avenue, Jan 29 - Feb 15, 2004, Tuesday - Saturday at 8.00 p.m. with matinees Saturday and Sunday at 3.00 p.m. For more information, tickets and reservations cal 604-257-0366, or visit or


© 2003, Jane Penistan