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Sarah Quand Meme

Show: Sarah Quand Même

Society: London (professional shows)

Venue: Drayton Arms Theatre. 153 Old Brompton Road, Greater, London SW5 0LJ

Credits: By Susie Lindeman. Directed by Wayne Harrison.

Sarah Quand Même

2 stars

Image: SARAH Quand Même

An exploration of the colourful, rackety but successful life of French actress, Sarah Bernhardt who died in 1923, Susie Lindeman’s play tries valiantly to find some realism in the world’s real first female superstar.

The dramatic device is a conversation between Bernhardt and her granddaughter Lysiane, who in real life wrote a memoir of her grandmother which may be more accurate than some of the more fanciful ones. Lindeman plays both parts and, at the start of the play it isn’t clear that what’s she’s doing. The “baby” voice she uses for Lysiane is gratingly high pitched and I wasn’t convinced by the laboured French accent she uses for both characters. There is also a lot of French in the script and Lindeman does not sound like a native speaker.

Gradually – it’s an energetic performance with a lot of floating round Justin Nardella’s rather nice Edwardian set  – we learn how Bernhardt trained, joined the Comedie Francaise, played many roles of both sexes, wowed audiences in London and made friends with the big names of the day. Along the way there were lovers and a son who speaks (Patrick Toomey) as a disembodied voice at the end when she’s dying.

90 minutes (not the 80 that’s advertised) is a long time to sustain a one person show and at times the pace flags. It feels drawn out too. Lindeman is, however, rather good at diva-esque gestures and using her rather lovely white clothes to heighten her larger-than-life body movement.

The title, by the way, is a French expression beloved of Bernhardt. The play alleges that it doesn’t translate into English which seems a bit odd. I’ve always translated it as “whatever happens”.  What’s the problem? The programme gives “despite all” which isn’t, I’m afraid, quite English.


First published by Sardines

Author information
Susan Elkin Susan Elkin is an education journalist, author and former secondary teacher of English. She was Education and Training Editor at The Stage from 2005 - 2016
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