Friday, 2 October 1998

Jean Anouilh: L'Invitation au Chateau (1948)

Translation: Published as Ring Around the Moon, by  Christopher Fry, 1950
Edition: Penguin, 1960
Review number:126

This play is here translated as Ring Around the Moon, a title which conveys something of the atmosphere of L'invitation au Chateau, but which is neither true to the original title nor connected to any part of the action. L'invitation au Chateau falls very definitely into that comparatively light-hearted group of plays by Anouilh known as pièces roses. The action takes place at a rich party, in the course of a single evening, and revolved round a pair of twin brothers, played by the same actor. Hugo and Frederic are very different people, despite their identical appearance; Frederic is soft and gentle while Hugo is hard, cynical and manipulative. It is hard not to feel that they symbolise the contrasting sides of a single character.

Both twins are in love with the same woman, the heiress Diana Masserschmann. Frederic appears to have won her, as they are engaged, and Hugo invites the ballet dancer Isabelle to the ball, paying her to captivate Frederic. The play is very much a comedy, and comes across as distinctly influenced by Oscar Wilde (though this may possibly be Fry rather than Anouilh). Even if I have criticisms of the title, the translation does Anouilh more of a service than those in the Methuen volume of his playes, which seem more designed to put you off the playwright than to encourage you to read or see more of his work.

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