10
Aug
19

L’Appartement

 

L’Appartement

Queensland Theatre

QPAC Cremorne

August 3 – 31 2019

 

Review by Shannon John Miller

 

 

On stage of the Cremorne theatre, we see an expansive set courtesy of designer, Dale Ferguson—the cross section of an interior modern apartment; a white, ultra-modern nexus dynamically flattened and yet bubbling with little staircases, mezzanines, doorways to other rooms, impractical geometric shelving and uncomfortable looking modern furniture. It is impressive but sterile and ironically uninhabitable.

 

Middle-income, generation-X, Brisbane couple, Rooster (Andrew Buchanan) and Meg (Liz Buchanan) have treated themselves, after 12 years of being together, to a well-deserved, dream holiday in Paris; a week away from the daily grind of their lives and their three-year-old twin daughters. They’re hoping to reconnect with each other in the City of Lights— the City of Love; Paris.

 

 

 

Rooster is a physical education teacher. He’s funny, playful and earthy. His wife, Meg is a retail assistant for a business that sells Chinese imitations of contemporary furniture. She’s also familiar with a relatable sense of meekish modesty. They’ve arranged to stay at a classy Airbnb in the heart of Paris, and we’re privy to the handover by the hosts; upwardly mobile young French couple, Serge (Pacharo Mzembe) and Lea (Melanie Zanetti).

 

Serge is dashing, fit and his work involves curing cancer. Lea, his partner is angelic, sophisticated and happens to be a photographer for National Geographic. Both are attractive, intellectual, well-connected, up-and-coming professionals with an impressive CV of humanitarian and environmental sensitives. They’re millennials living an almost impossible life of affluence and social mobility. Of what their minimalist tastes allow, nothing in their apartment is by chance, everything is carefully selected for its excellence and distinction, including a bottle of valuable wine sourced from a friend’s boutique vineyard which they gift to the Aussies.

 

 

Over a couple of drinks, Lea and Serge reveal that they’re going to help build a well for a third world village. They also warn the couple that they’re not to smoke in the apartment and that a package will be delivered while they’re away. They leave, and Rooster and Meg are finally left to enjoy their holiday. However, in the aftermath of the interaction, Meg has been altered, and is sent spinning off in a direction of self-reflective remorse. She’s critical of the French couple’s conspicuous pretentions and sense of style; intimidated by their overachieving and social status.

 

These petty jealousies however lead to inroads of much darker dissatisfactions as the couple bicker over unresolved conflicts and unrealised, forgotten ambitions. Meg’s unfulfilled, working in an unskilled field, out of alignment with her true purpose. She’s been a devoted wife and mother. One of their daughters has a learning impairment. In comparison, everything seems to have fallen into place for French Lea, a childless millennial who’s followed her dreams and is living her best life.

 

 

Meg feels as though she’s compromised and directs this blame at Rooster, chastising him for having too simpler goals; for not being more assertive, further provoking unprocessed issues. Their relaxing holiday soon becomes a miserable exploration of the couples’ loss of self-actualisation.

 

As Rooster attempts to save the mood, Meg seems hellbent on sabotaging the trip. And perhaps they’ve always argued this way, or perhaps it’s because they’ve momentarily stepped outside the 12-year vacuum of their domestic ignorance to discover in Serge and Lea, parallel versions of what could have been. Nevertheless, a mysterious parcel arrives, and when the French couple return a laughable war of opposing ideologies ensues.

 

 

Director and playwright Joanna Murray-Smith has masterfully built a world, which, while it is an ostensible comedy of errors where two opposing forces come together, has much darker satirical undercurrents.

 

It’s about the language of privilege and the middle-classes arming themselves with moral outrage; the new language of distinction and social mobility. It’s about the west’s pre-occupation with ethnicity, of the casual racism that punctuates our day-to-day interactions, the façade of authenticity in a world of good intentions, fake news and fake furniture, and of misguided understandings of political correctness and indigeneity. Aptly, the program notes say that L’Appartement is a “comedy that asks if good intentions are the ultimate crime of the middle class”.

 

We see ourselves in every character as the players ride their natural instincts so expertly and as playwright Murray-Smith holds a mirror up to the audience. Characters draw false equivalencies, moralise naïvely on misappropriated indigenous culture, matters of taste, and other currencies of the middle-class. While both couples are just as equally privileged, they fight over the scraps of political correctness, attempting to out-do each other in the arena of virtue signalling.

 

L’Appartement is a marvellously devilish work, laugh-out-loud funny, wry, cleverly serious, and successfully epitomises the pitfalls of social politics in modern society.


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