SOCIAL CLIMBING, AN obsession with the upper class, and commentaries about pompous aristocrats are all topics in the satire Le Bourgeois gentilhomme. Written by Molière and composed by Jean-Baptiste Lully in 17th-century France, the play is now coming to the University of Ottawa campus, as a translation and adaptation under the name Mamamouchi, on March 27–31 at Academic Hall.
Jodi Sprung-Boyd, MFA candidate and director of the play, recently spoke with the Fulcrum about the show.
“The play is about a man in the 17th century who is very naïve and has grand aspirations for being a nobleman,” says Sprung-Boyd. “He is a bourgeois and he’s obsessed with the idea of nobility and everything it entails, but he wasn’t born into the noble class. There’s no way of actually becoming a nobleman, so he buys himself into the noble class—or he tries to.”
While the play may have been originally written in French, Sprung-Boyd is using a direct English translation for her show, having also added some changes to make the play flow better on stage. Mamamouchi isn’t the director’s first translated play, but Sprung-Boyd still had work to do when it came to adapting the text.
“My first play [at the U of O], The Open Couple, was originally in Italian and going back and reading the Italian version—or what I understood of Italian—and watching an Italian recording of it … there was so much that had been cut in the original, even in the translation,” says Sprung-Boyd. “[The text I chose] was fully translated, but I changed it a lot and adapted a lot for the show because direct translation is not always clear. If you put something in English word for word as it is in French, it doesn’t always make sense.”
Featuring live music—a cellist, a quartet, and a violist—all of the sounds in Mamamouchi are not pre-recorded. Sprung-Boyd explains music is an important factor in the show—equally important as the text itself.
“It doesn’t follow the well-made play structure. It’s not a well-made, five-act play. Lully—Jean Baptiste Lully is the composer for the piece—[he and] Molière came together and wrote this piece, so music is as important to the structure as of the story as all of the text is and without it the play doesn’t make sense.”
Mamamouchi’s emphasis on music and disregard for all theatrical standards and conventions is what attracted Sprung-Boyd to the play. While Sprung-Boyd doesn’t have a musical background, she’s had the help of Adrian Epprecht, the vocal coach for the play, and Jacob Cain, the show’s music director, to better understand the musical aspect of the play.
“It has been critiqued as a poorly written play when it’s only analyzed for the drama, for the theatre in it. You have to look at it with the music,” says Sprung-Boyd. “I had a lot of help with that and that’s why Adrian Epprecht is my dramaturge, because she’s a musician. We looked at the music together to see how it was built and how it was created. It’s a really original piece and it’s not at all poorly written.” “It’s that it broke all the rules, that’s what really drew me to it.”
Set to open on World Theatre Day with a cast of 21, Mamamouchi is, according to Sprung-Boyd, a play every student can enjoy.
“It’s full of fun and excitement. It’s all about the ability to escape into a fantasy world and that pull or that struggle between having to face reality … versus getting wrapped up in fantasy and escaping into fun, and that’s what theatre is really all about.”