- Le Vaudeville à la scène par Violaine Heyraud et Ariane Martinez
The vaudeville has a dual definition: whether considered as a song employed in theatre (especially opéra-comique), or defined as a dramatic genre in its own right whose heyday was in the nineteenth century, it has long been recognized as a significant dramatic form that persists until the present. It is the latter definition that is meant here, and the majority of the present volume is concerned with the theatre of Scribe, Feydeau, and Labiche, whether in their own period, or their performance history in more modern times. Attention is given throughout the volume to the scenic language of such works, to the theatrical spaces in which they were and are performed, to decor, to acting style, and to other dramaturgical aspects such as meta-theatre. Particular collaborations (Scribe at the Théâtre du Gymnase) and actors such as Jean-Marie Geoffroy are also considered. The first and more significant section of the volume consists of thirteen chapters, arranged in rough chronological order, analysing the genre. Despite the back cover and Introduction (rightly) situating the birth of the genre in the eighteenth century, there is, frustratingly, almost nothing on those origins. A valiant attempt by Guy Spielman to cover the period from 1400 to 1800—in ten pages!—is inevitably more of a superficial survey of the most important landmarks in the adoption of music into theatre, albeit ignoring, as does most of this volume, almost all of the specialized studies published outside of France, the [End Page 642] names Philip Robinson, Robert Isherwood, and Herbert Schneider coming immediately to mind for the eighteenth century alone. The editors’ Introduction hardly helps matters by claiming that one arguable origin—the écriteaux works for the Foires (c. 1709–15)—appeared ‘à la fin du 18e siècle’ (p. 8). Given the lack of grounding in the genre’s origins, or much sustained discussion of any kind of dramaturgical specificity, the rest of the volume tends to lack focus. A positive feature of the chapters is the willingness to integrate discussion of more modern stagings of the vaudeville, including chapters by Ariane Martinez (concerning Jean-Louis Barrault), Armelle Talbot (productions of Labiche since the 1960s), Aurélie Coulon and Sidonie Han (post-2000 scénographies), and Violaine Heyraud (Feydeau in the twenty-first century). The second section (‘en création’) comprises a ‘florilège’ (p. 15) of texts by artists, and theatre professionals, concerning the performance of such works; some are short paragraphs, others more significant. Overall, this little volume is a pleasant read and is valuable chiefly for its focus on performance tradition and technique, and for its willingness to bring theatre practitioners into the scholarly debate.