Fringe Club Play-Reading Group in Association with The English-Speaking Union (ESU) Hong Kong.
Date: 19th February 2019 (Tuesday)
Venue: “Colette’s” 2/F, The HK Fringe Club, 2 Lower Albert Road, Central, Hong Kong
The Play this time : An Italian Straw Hat by Eugène Labiche
Facilitator : Julian Quail and Mike Ingham
**Certificates will be awarded for Continuous Professional Development credit
Following last month’s more serious play The Father by Florian Zeller, February's play reading is a classic French farce called An Italian Straw Hat by Eugene Labiche (1815 to 1888). Labiche was a prolific producer of farces, and wrote 174 plays, but An Italian Straw Hat is his most famous and popular. Written in 1851, the play is set contemporaneously in the mid 19th century. The plot is essentially one long excuse for the actors to chase each other across the stage in and out of rooms, and in this sense it could be said to be the forerunner of the Keystone Cops series in American silent films and of British farces such as Charley's Aunt or Brian Rix's Whitehall farces, and those of the prolific Ray Cooney, among many others.
The plot is this: the young hero, Ferdinand’s (Fadinard in the original French) horse has eaten a young lady's Italian straw hat, with the consequence that Ferdinand is compelled by the young lady's escort to promise to replace the hat with an identical one - immediately. One problem about this, however, is that it is Ferdinand's wedding day, and his bride Hélène is about to arrive with a big wedding party of guests. Ferdinand’s efforts to find another hat very quickly results in flight and pursuit around Paris. The chase involves the bride’s deaf old grandfather, her quick-tempered father, the even more quick-tempered father of the young lady whose hat was eaten by the horse, a distracted old clerk from a hat shop, all the wedding guests and, finally, members of the Parisian gendarmerie.
Originally the farce would have also contained popular songs and dances, but these have been omitted by the English translator so that the length of the play is more accessible to an Anglophone reader and audience. The play continues to be popular on the French stage as well as internationally, including various adaptations, including of course a very successful Italian one immediately after WWII. A more recent example is the Canadian Ballet version that appeared in 2005 to popular and critical acclaim. There may have been a Hong Kong Cantonese or English adaptation, but we are unaware of one. If any play reader knows, or can find out, if there has been one, we would be happy to learn more.
All are welcome.
Please do join us at Tuesday, 19th February 2019 at 7.30pm at The Fringe Club for an enjoyable evening of Play Reading. We look forward to seeing you again or meeting you if you are a new play-reader and wish to participate. You will be very welcome.
**The English-Speaking Union (ESU) Hong Kong is a registered charity under Section 88 of the Hong Kong Inland Revenue Ordinance (charity reference 91/6295) .