Category Archives: History


(Michael Seaver’s article appeared in the Irish Times, 5/14; Photos (top to bottom): Choreographer Áine Stapleton has spent eight years exploring Joyce’s artistry; Lucia Joyce: Whenever her name is mentioned, the words ‘daughter of James Joyce’ aren’t far away.)

Whenever the name of Lucia Joyce is mentioned, the words “daughter of James Joyce” are never far away. A talented dancer, writer and musician, Lucia’s career was cut short after she had a nervous breakdown and was – some say inaccurately – diagnosed with schizophrenia. She spent the rest of her life in institutions where she was subjected to experimental treatments.

According to dance historian Deirdre Mulrooney, many accounts of her life are Mills & Boon-style narratives, where the real protagonists are famous male writers, including her father and Samuel Beckett, with whom Lucia had a relationship. Writing in Joyce Studies Annual, Mulrooney claims: “This misunderstood artist has been reduced to a ‘mad girl’, synonymous with mental illness, considered primarily in relation to her father, and filed away under ‘miscellaneous’ in coveted James Joyce special collections around the world.”

This two-dimensional caricature would be different had she fulfilled her artistic potential. In 1928 the Paris Times stated that, “When she reaches her full capacity for rhythmic dancing, James Joyce may yet be known as his daughter’s father”.

Choreographer Áine Stapleton has spent the past eight years forefronting Lucia Joyce’s artistry and will premiere a dance film installation, Somewhere in the Body, at this year’s Dublin Dance Festival. “In 2014 I was working with some friends in a band who had created musical interpretations of Joyce’s major works for Bloomsday,” she says. “During the rehearsals, they told me a bit about Lucia and her dance career. That same week, I managed to source some letters that were written by Lucia during her later years in psychiatric care. I could instantly see a clear divide between the clichéd accounts of Lucia in the press and media, compared to the kind, intelligent and loving person that came through in her letters. These writings inspired me to make my first work about Lucia and I’ve been immersed in her story ever since.” Stapleton would concur with Mulrooney’s disdain for the superficial accounts of Lucia’s life.

“I try to avoid the clichés that are so often associated with her story, so it’s always important for me to research as thoroughly as possible. But it’s very difficult to find information about Lucia, due in part to the fact that Stephen Joyce, James Joyce’s grandson and long-time estate administrator, is known to have had part of Lucia’s correspondence with her father and Samuel Beckett destroyed following her death.” Poems and an unpublished novel have also been lost or destroyed.

Stapleton has created two previous dance films. Medicated Milk was based on a period of time that Lucia spent in Bray, Co Wicklow (“close to where I grew up, which Lucia described as a magnificent place, full of flowers”), and Horrible Creature, based on her life in Switzerland between 1915 and the late 1930s.

“Somewhere in the Body takes a different approach to my previous work about Lucia, which relies heavily on her biographical details,” she says. “For this film installation, I examine the psychic spaces that Lucia inhabited in her father’s mind, and how she appears in his writings, with a particular focus on Finnegans Wake.”

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(Kate Wyver’s article appeared in the guardian 5.9; via Pam Green;  Photo: The stars of Showwomen: (left to right) Fancy Chance, Marisa Carnesky, Lucifire and Livia Kojo Alour. Photograph: Sarah Hickson.)

Pioneering female entertainers, including a 1930s clown and a Wall of Death stunt rider, are celebrated in a show by a fearless group of performers

Female performers in British variety acts have long been termed “showgirls”. For the illusionist Marisa Carnesky, this demeans them. “What happens when the showgirl grows up?” she asks.

A performance artist and creator of the interactive show Ghost Train – which was in residence at Blackpool for five years – Carnesky is using first-hand testimony, archival research and a healthy dose of guesswork to conjure the world of late 19th and early 20th-century female circus performers. The lives explored in her new production, Showwomen, include those of a sword climber, a clown, an aerialist and a daredevil. “The British seaside was always this extraordinary melting pot,” Carnesky says with glee. “Women weren’t just mute leg-kickers in a lineup.”

First: the women who work with swords. Making the show with Carnesky is sword swallower Livia Kojo Alour, who was naturally drawn to the story of the sword artist, crocodile charmer and glass-walker Koringa. Working in the 1930s, Koringa was rumoured to hypnotise farm animals on enemy lines so soldiers could cross unnoticed. “There’s this picture where Koringa climbs up a high ladder of swords,” Kojo Alour says. “I do the same. I have a ladder of swords. I swallow swords; I lay on beds of nails.” She moves her hands as she speaks, occasionally flashing an intricate tattoo of a sword from elbow to wrist.

In pictures, Koringa has dark skin, but it is uncertain whether she was an Indian performer, as touted by the Bertram Mills Circus posters, or whether she was encouraged to lean on a racist British fascination for the “exotic”. This is a term Kojo Alour has had to deal with often. “When I was starting out, I had a hard time. I was one of the very few Black performers on the London scene. I was constantly searching for something that made me stand out, and not in an exotic way, which is how I was described a lot back in the day.” She was drawn to extremities in performance. “The only way to carve my way was to do something dangerous that nobody else could do.”

Another of the show’s main characters is the pioneering 1930s clown Lulu Adams. Her act would have felt something akin to drag kinging, Carnesky suggests, as clowning was only done by men. Carnesky and Kojo Alour will also be performing with the self-taught hair hanger Fancy Chance, who will explore the 1880s aerialist Miss La La, whom Degas painted hanging from her teeth. In some shows, they will be joined by the fire artist Lucifire, who will look into the life of the 1920s stuntwoman and Wall of Death rider Marjorie Dare.

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(from France24, 5/13; Photo: Dancers perform at the Lido cabaret in Paris on September 10, 2019. © Christophe Archambault, AFP.)

High-kicking showgirls and nightly cabaret shows at the famed Parisian Lido club on the Champs-Elysees are set to be a thing of the past after the venue’s new owner confirmed mass lay-offs on Thursday.

Created in the aftermath of World War II, the Lido has drawn fans for more than seven decades with its racy dance routines featuring towering women in feathers, high heels and little else.

But though it has sought to modernise its shows and adapt to the times, the venue has been losing money for years and changed hands at the end of 2021.

The new owner, French hotels giant Accor, told staff on Thursday it would lay off 157 of 184 employees, including its “Bluebell girls” troupe of dancers, according to several sources who spoke to AFP.

“The Lido is finished,” one trade union representative said on condition of anonymity, adding Accor intended to turn the prime real estate into a venue for other musical events.

“All the artistic staff, meaning around 60 people, will disappear,” the source added.

Cabaret dancing first appeared during France’s “Belle Epoque” at the end of the 19th century, when the French capital was a hotbed of artistic creation.

The Moulin Rouge remains the best-known show in the city and is still going strong, thanks largely to the publicity from the 2001 film of the same name by Baz Luhrmann.

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(Lori Hinnant’s, Msyslav Chernov’s, and Vasilisa Stephenko’s article appeared on the AP, 5/5; Photo:

LVIV, Ukraine (AP) — She stood in just her bathrobe in the freezing basement of the Mariupol theater, coated in white plaster dust shaken loose by the explosion. Her husband tugged at her to leave and begged her to cover her eyes.

But she couldn’t help it — Oksana Syomina looked. And to this day, she wishes she hadn’t. Bodies were strewn everywhere, including those of children. By the main exit, a little girl lay still on the floor.

Syomina had to step on the dead to escape the building that had served as the Ukrainian city’s main bomb shelter for more than a week. The wounded screamed, as did those trying to find loved ones. Syomina, her husband and about 30 others ran blindly toward the sea and up the shore for almost five miles (eight kilometers) without stopping, the theater in ruins behind them.

“All the people are still under the rubble, because the rubble is still there — no one dug them up,” Syomina said, weeping at the memory. “This is one big mass grave.”

Amid all the horrors that have unfolded in the war on Ukraine, the Russian bombing of the Donetsk Academic Regional Drama Theater in Mariupol on March 16 stands out as the single deadliest known attack against civilians to date. An Associated Press investigation has found evidence that the attack was in fact far deadlier than estimated, killing closer to 600 people inside and outside the building. That’s almost double the death toll cited so far, and many survivors put the number even higher.

The AP investigation recreated what happened inside the theater on that day from the accounts of 23 survivors, rescuers, and people intimately familiar with its new life as a bomb shelter. The AP also drew on two sets of floor plans of the theater, photos and video taken inside before, during and after that day and feedback from experts who reviewed the methodology.

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(Tim Lister’s, Olga Voitovych’s, Tara John’s, and Paul P. Murphy’s article appeared on CNN, 3/16; Photo: The Drama Theater in Mariupol, where hundreds were taking refuge, sustained heavy damage in a bombing on Wednesday, authorities said.)

Lviv, Ukraine (CNN)A theater where hundreds of people had taken shelter in Mariupol was bombed on Wednesday, according to local authorities, as hundreds of thousands of people remain trapped in the coastal Ukrainian city that has been encircled for weeks by Russian forces.

Mariupol City Council, who shared an image of the destroyed building, said Russian forces had “purposefully and cynically destroyed the Drama Theater in the heart of Mariupol.”

“The plane dropped a bomb on a building where hundreds of peaceful Mariupol residents were hiding,” it said.

CNN has geolocated the image and confirmed it is of the theater in the southeastern port city. The word “children” was spelled out on two sides of the theater before it was bombed, according to satellite images.

Videos of the aftermath showed a fire raging in the theater’s ruins. The number of casualties is unknown, authorities said.

“It is still impossible to estimate the scale of this horrific and inhumane act, because the city continues to shell residential areas,” the council wrote on Telegram. “It is known that after the bombing, the central part of the Drama Theater was destroyed, and the entrance to the bomb shelter in the building was destroyed,” it added.

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(Chris Wiegand’s article appeared in the Guardian, 3/7; via Pam Green;  Photo:  ‘The format was inspired by Beyoncé’s Live at Roseland show’ … Six at the Arts theatre. Photograph: Idil Sukan/Draw.)

What if Henry VIII’s wives were a pop group? The makers of the smash hit recall how Catherine of Aragon was very much Beyoncé, Anne Boleyn had Lily Allen vibes – while Jane Seymour was a sort of Adele

Lucy Moss, co-writer

In 2017, Cambridge University’s musical theatre society invited applications for an original show that it could take to the Edinburgh fringe. Toby Marlow and I were third years at the university, and had talked about doing a musical together for ages, so he applied, saying he would write a show with pop music and lots of women at its centre. Representation of women on stage was in the cultural conversation – later that year #MeToo happened.

The fringe has so many professional productions, you need a hook for your student show. The “real housewives of Shakespeare” and a Wicked-type backstory for the witches in Macbeth were two of Toby’s ideas. But if you’re looking for a famous group of women who are out of copyright, the most obvious are the six wives of Henry VIII. “What if the wives were a pop group giving a concert?” asked Toby. I was like: “Sure! But that sounds like it could be so terrible. We’ll have to make sure it isn’t.” The format was inspired by Beyoncé’s Live at Roseland show.

My main research was Lucy Worsley’s TV series – I love the way she gets dressed up

I was studying history but couldn’t remember much about the Tudors, beyond Henry possibly writing Greensleeves about Anne Boleyn. Anyway I had my dissertation to write so didn’t have much time for reading. My main research was Lucy Worsley’s TV series. I love the way she gets dressed up, pretending to be a lady in waiting and looking over her shoulder at the camera. It’s so ridiculous!

We wrote half the show over four days in the Easter holiday; the rest we finished in our final term. We took a student production of Six to Edinburgh that summer. The costumes were very low budget – Anne Boleyn had a tiara from Claire’s Accessories. No one was paid, it was just for fun. Our venue in Grassmarket was a converted hotel conference centre. I set up the first couple of shows then went back to Cambridge to direct a Shakespeare play. I just didn’t think Six would be so important. But it quickly started selling out and it wasn’t just our friends buying tickets.

After the fringe we put it on in Cambridge. The producer Kenny Wax saw it and said he had a show at the Arts theatre in London that wasn’t playing on Mondays. Would we like to do a showcase with a professional company on those nights? We did that, recorded an album, toured the show, then went back to the Arts for an open-ended run.

I’d thought that after uni I’d move back in with my mum, send emails to theatre directors asking to shadow them and slowly try to work my way into the industry. I was fast-tracked by Six. People get in touch now and say they’d love to learn from me but I don’t know what I’m doing!

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(Lyndsey Winship’s article appeared in the Guardian, 2/28; via Pam Green; Photo:  Don’t stop till you’re married! … dancers in traditional clothing perform the Schuhplattler. Photograph: Westend61 GmbH/Alamy.)

What do you get if you cross a 1,000-year-old Bavarian shoe-slapping dance with an all-male Italian folk routine that was on the brink of extinction? A sweaty, joyous double-bill!

When Alessandro Sciarroni discovered an Italian folk dance called polka chinata, it was at that point a near-forgotten art practised by only five men in the world. By contrast, when he first watched the 1,000-year-old, thigh-slapping Bavarian/Tyrolean Schuhplattler, it was still being taught and performed, known for its lederhosen, beer steins and a dark period in its history as a favourite of the Nazis. Both of these dances, though, are ones the artist and choreographer has turned into something new, which he’ll be bringing to the inaugural Dance Reflections festival, accelerating the return of international dance to London, post-Covid.

Folk dance is not Sciarroni’s only influence – his background is in experimental theatre – but it’s fertile ground for contemporary artists (another upcoming show, by Jamal Gerald at Leeds’s Transform festival, reinvents the Jumbie dance from Montserrat as a dance of black queer joy). Sciarroni has an anthropological eye. As a young boy growing up on Italy’s east coast, he was fascinated by animal behaviour, the flocking of birds, the way insects worked in unison.

“I was hypnotised and very curious,” he says. “When you are a child you see these things and ask these huge philosophical questions.” Watching these centuries-old folk dances, those big “whys” returned: “Why do they do it? How do they know what to do? It’s something that reconnects me with the mysteries of the universe.”

When you step back and look at it, much of human behaviour seems bizarre, especially on the dancefloor. “You see a group of people using a lot of energy to do something that looks pointless,” says Sciarroni. “But the more you look, the more you recognise something about yourself in them.”

That tension between tradition and modernity is always at play. “Sometimes tradition is a nest where you can feel protected,” he says, “but it can also be a cage.” Sciarroni extracts the dances from their original music but has no desire to wipe out tradition – he teaches polka chinata workshops alongside performances of his piece Save the Last Dance for Me. Polka chinata is performed by two men in close embrace (a bit like a tango) who spin in tight circles, bending their knees until they’re almost sitting on the ground. It began around Bologna in the early 1900s, a way for men to show off to women, and after the second world war became almost a competitive activity.

Then it disappeared, until one dance scholar, Giancarlo Stagni, discovered some old recordings. Sciarroni went to Stagni’s village every week for six months to learn the steps. “It’s very difficult,” he says. “And it’s very beautiful, because when you hug your partner and crouch down, it’s really a dance about trust and sharing the weight of the body. At the beginning you approach it technically, but then it becomes about feelings.” He means for the dancers, but hopefully the same is true for the audience.

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(Helena Smith’s article appeared in the Guardian, 1/31; A member of Prof Lambrinoudakis’ team showing a picture of farmer Christos Zafiris, the site’s former owner, on the spot where the Little Theatre of Epidavros was discovered. Photograph: Helena Smith/The Guardian; (below) Excavations at the Little Epidavros Theatre. Photograph: Vassilis Lambrinoudakis.)

New passion for reviving country’s monuments is returning Little Theatre of Epidavros to heart of community.)

For nearly two millennia, the Little Theatre of Epidavros lay underground. Its engraved seats, concentric and tiered, belonged to a world of roots; in this case the roots of an olive grove owned by Christos Zafiris, a local farmer. “They say that had it not been for pigs digging at the soil, we might never have known of its existence,” says Prof Vassilis Lambrinoudakis. “Until the appearance of the stones in 1970, the theatre was a secret hidden under the earth for 18 centuries.”

The classical archaeologist, renowned for his work at Athens University, has spent more than four decades ensuring the chance find would not go to waste. Excavations have not disappointed. Inscriptions discovered at the site, on the slopes of a peninsula overlooking the sea, have shed light on the history of those who may have commissioned the theatre. Evidence of multiple phases of construction, starting in the mid-fourth century BC, have further illuminated the ancient city of Epidavros that once surrounded the architectural gem.

For those who flock to the resurrected theatre’s festival every July, the venue, roughly 95 miles south-west of Athens, rivals its slightly younger but much more famous sister, the 12,000-seat ancient playhouse barely 10 miles away long regarded as Greece’s best theatre acoustically and aesthetically.

 “It’s among our top 10 20th century finds,” says Lambrinoudakis, a sprightly octogenarian pointing to the Little Theatre’s upper tiers. “More than any other remnant of the past, ancient theatres speak to us. They contain a message of life that modern society has a thirst to share. It is our duty to bring them alive.”

In a country as culturally rich as Greece, ancient arenas, like other antiquities, are no stranger to abandonment and decay. Overstretched budgets, an unwieldy bureaucracy and public oversight have all been blamed for ruins falling victim to the ravages of neglect and time. But officials are now on a mission to revive the monuments. And, with the aid of private sponsorship and EU funds, headway is being made.

South of little Epidavros, restoration work on the 17,000-seat ancient theatre of Sparta was launched last year. In Larissa, reconstruction of central Greece’s biggest open-air ancient theatre is on course to be completed. As excavations have progressed, authorities have reported thousands of inscriptions and hundreds of sculptures being unearthed.

Farther north, in Epirus, one of Europe’s poorest regions, plans are afoot to make five ancient Greek theatres the centrepiece of a 214-mile cultural route taking in 2,500 years of history. The EU will provide 80% of the €24m the project is slated to cost.

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(Billy Shortall’s and Ciarin O’Neill’s article appeared in The Iris Times, 1/26/2022; Photo: Delegates to the World Congress of the Irish Race led by Katherine Hughes, Mary MacSwiney, Éamon de Valera, Countess Markievicz, Thomas Hughes Kelly and Sean T O’Kelly. Photograph: Image Bibliothèque Nationale de France.)


A showcase of Irish art and design brought a fleeting moment of unity before the Civil War


In late January 1922 the cream of Irish politics, literature, music, theatre, art and design converged in Paris. James Joyce published his modernist masterpiece Ulysses. Renowned designer Eileen Gray opened her shop Jean Désert, and an event known as the World Congress of the Irish Race took place in the city. The week-long congress brought Irish delegates and an international audience together to discuss Irish affairs and establish a central diaspora organisation to co-ordinate worldwide support for the emerging State.


Associated with the congress the Irish government presented the grand narrative of Irish cultural history, with lectures on aspects of Irish life and culture, performances of plays by playwrights John M Synge and Lady Gregory, and concerts of Irish music. The centrepiece of this cultural display was a seminal exhibition of Irish art.


The Irish exhibition aimed to show the world the best of modern Irish art in a global context. It was an early deployment of soft power and cultural diplomacy

The French authorities estimated 250 people attended the congress. Approximately 100 delegates with voting rights travelled from all over the world to the political think-in and tactical display of Irish culture. Éamon de Valera described it as a chance to display Ireland’s “magnificent culture, the grand things the nation could give to the world”.


The centrepiece of this show was an art exhibition, mounted in a fashionable Parisian art gallery, Galerie Barbazanges, located just around the corner from Jean Désert. Barbazanges specialised in modern art, showing Picasso and Modigliani. By choosing this space the Irish exhibition aimed to show the world the best of modern Irish art in a global context. It was an early deployment of soft power and cultural diplomacy. Art was to be used as a key element of branding a postcolonial Ireland.


This Friday, January 28th, Trinity College Dublin will launch a 3D virtual recreation of this seminal exhibition developed by historians from the Department of History and Department of History of Art and Architecture in partnership with Trinity Long Room Hub Arts and Humanities Research Institute. Seeing Ireland is an ambitious digital humanities project which forms part of the Decade of Centenaries programme for 2022 and has been supported by the Department of Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media.



Visitors to the website will be able to enjoy an immersive experience of attending the exhibition and see Ireland as it wished to be seen by the world in 1922 in a fleeting moment of unity, between the Treaty split and subsequent Civil War that dominated the narrative of that year in Irish history. Irish art and culture was something both sides could embrace.


At the time of the congress no other country had officially recognised the State. The authorities sought to present a self-defined identity and to elicit international support as it sought to take its place in the world. The Irish minister for fine arts George Noble Plunkett, in correspondence with both congress organiser Katherine Hughes and de Valera, noted the “propaganda value” of the exhibition. George Gavan Duffy, then minister for foreign affairs, wrote that the congress was “mainly of a cultural and artistic character” and he thought that it was wise to send a delegation representing Ireland that would endeavour to “avoid party politics”. He invited de Valera and Eoin MacNeill to each lead an official delegation of five representing the country.


Other delegates included Countess Markievicz, Mary McSwiney, Harry Boland, Sean T O’Kelly and Douglas Hyde, who delivered a lecture to attendees on the Irish language. William Butler Yeats lectured on Irish literature and his brother Jack, in his one and only public lecture, spoke on modern Irish art. Speakers included MacNeill on Irish history, Arthur Darley on music and Evelyn Gleeson on Irish design. Other presentations were on economics, religion, sport and agriculture. These topics were chosen to represent the pre-Civil War pillars on which the new administration planned to build the State.


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(Laura Cappelle’s article appeared in the Guardian, 1/10;  Gift for improvisation … painting of Molière reading from Tartuffe at the home of Ninon de L’Enclos. Photograph: Heritage Image Partnership Ltd/Alamy.)

The Comédie-Française is celebrating the 17th-century dramatist by recreating Tartuffe, the play that outraged the Catholic church and almost ended his career

French theatre is gearing up to pay tribute to one of its founding fathers: Molière, the 17th-century playwright whose biting comedies still form many French schoolchildren’s introduction to drama. On 15 January, 400 years after his baptism (the exact date of his birth is unknown), the venerable Comédie-Française company will open this anniversary year with the play that came perilously close to sinking Molière’s career: Tartuffe.

While the first version of the play got the approval of Louis XIV himself in 1664, its satire of Catholic zealots drew the ire of the Catholic church. At the time, accusations of impiety could send a playwright to the stake, and Tartuffe was swiftly forbidden. Yet Molière persisted, switching gears and rewriting the play to suggest that his target wasn’t religion or true believers – but rather the hypocrisy of those who feign virtue. (The word “tartuffe” came to describe such characters in life, too.)

It worked. By 1669, a new, longer version of the play – in five rather than three acts – was allowed and met with acclaim, and researchers now see Molière’s political and social acumen as a key factor in his rise to classic status, even before his death. “Molière was brilliant at this: he had this sense of opportunity, a gift for improvisation,” says Georges Forestier, a Molière specialist and professor emeritus at Sorbonne Université in Paris.

And this month, thanks to Forestier and his colleague Isabelle Grellet, the Comédie-Française’s audience will be able to experience the original Tartuffe again – or at least a text as close to it as possible. While the 1664 play didn’t survive, the duo used a method that Forestier calls “theatrical genetics” to recreate it. It relies on sources the era’s playwrights drew heavily on, such as commedia dell’arte scenarios and existing short stories, to piece together a play’s original plot.

The result is a tighter, more streamlined Tartuffe, focused on the eponymous antihero – a religious beggar who is welcomed into a well-to-do family – and his hosts, Orgon and his wife Elmire. Some characters, such as the young beau Valère, have disappeared entirely along with the second and fifth acts, identified as later additions.

The prominent Belgian director Ivo van Hove will direct what is set to be a curious event – a “new” Molière play at the House of Molière, as the Comédie-Française has long been known. The opening night will be relayed live in cinemas in seven countries, and marks the start of a yearlong celebration for the French company, which was born of the fusion of Molière’s troupe and another, in 1680: its entire 2022 lineup will be dedicated to Molière.

Van Hove originally considered tackling Tartuffe years ago, after staging Molière’s The Misanthrope and The Miser in other countries, but he was discouraged by the standard five-act version. “It’s so artificially made up, due to the pressure from the church,” he says between rehearsals. “I never liked it, and I didn’t know how to solve it.”

Forestier and Grellet’s three-act version convinced him. “It’s what he intended it to be,” Van Hove says of this old-new Tartuffe, presented under its original title (Tartuffe or the Hypocrite, changed in 1669 to The Impostor). The director has added a prologue and epilogue to set the scene, and sees the play as a “social drama”.

Ever the pragmatist, Molière knew when to back down – and when to take risks, too

“This Tartuffe is invited into their home, and then the whole family, every individual, starts to change,” he says. Forestier stresses, however, that while Van Hove sees Tartuffe’s relationship with Elmire, the lady of the house, as a love story, the text doesn’t necessarily support this idea.

Ever the pragmatist, Molière knew when to back down – and when to take risks, too. As Tartuffe and the ensuing controversy demonstrate, he was the first comic playwright in France to leave stock comedy characters behind and tap into zeitgeisty themes, including the education of women, freedom within marriage, fanaticism and fashion. And while conservatives disapproved, he found an eager audience in Louis XIV and his court. “When his career takes off, the king is in his 20s,” says Marine Souchier, a postdoctoral researcher who studied the playwright’s career trajectory. “Molière speaks to a pretty young crowd at court and among the bourgeoisie, and is rather progressive for this era.”

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