Review: The Madwoman of Chaillot (Amicus Productions)

A “witty, whimsical” look at madness, The Madwoman of Chaillot takes the stage in Toronto

In order to change the world, all we need is a can-do attitude and the right mad woman. At least, that’s what Amicus Productions‘ adaptation of The Madwoman of Chaillot, playing at the Papermill Theatre, suggests.

When madwoman Aurelia (Janice Hansen) learns that her city of Chaillot is being taken over by corrupt, greedy, oil-seeking prospectors and business men, she enlists the town to help her take care of the problem.

Can I just say that this play is awesome? I’m not familiar with playwright Jean Giraudoux, but I thought the script was witty, whimsical, and definitely worth checking out. The play is surprisingly topical for Canada today, but Levkoe—sadly, to my mind—isn’t interested in tying the production to any current events.

At the same time, what I view as a missed opportunity is precisely what makes The Madwoman of Chaillot fun and accessible for a family audience. The characters are little more than caricatures, but the cast is vibrant, energetic, and clearly having a good time.

As a community group, Amicus Productions has the opportunity to stage a play with a large cast of people, and director Harvey Levkoe chose well. Hansen as Aurelia is well-cast, and was one of the highlights for my guest. I found her quiet delivery of some of the most ridiculous lines was a nice touch in distinguishing her version of ‘mad’ from that of the businessmen.

We also both agreed that Christopher Irving as the Ragpicker was amazing, particularly in his second act performance, when he pretends to be rich for the sake of a mock trial. Taking control of the stage, Irving moves fluidly as he ducks around his fellow cast members, embracing, begging, and generally chewing the scenery. It’s a great scene that’s surprisingly demanding, but Irving really nails it.

The production overall, however, is not quite perfect. At times, I felt that there was a bit too much going on during a scene, but with a cast as large as this one, it’s a small complaint. Also, the intermission ran after a forty-five minute first act, which killed some of the comedic momentum. There was also an unfortunate joke about sex slaves that served no purpose and could easily have been cut.

In the end, as I left with my friend, we found we had a lot to talk about, from costumes to direction, to what we liked and what we didn’t. For us, it was a relaxing night of theatre. If you’re looking for a low-key show that’s a bit different, The Madwoman of Chaillot is a good bet.


Photo of Christopher Irving and Janice Hansen courtesy Amicus Productions.