La Folle et Inconvenante Histoire des Femmes

Reviewer's rating

The Crazy and Outrageous History of Women is a play whose title is impressive and full of promises. It starts in a very direct and powerful way: the play’s only comedian, Diane Prost, stands on stage, facing an ornate coffin. It’s her grandmother’s, and the actress talks to her, saying that she loved having such an interesting grandma with whom she could talk about everything – everything but the fact that she likes girls. Thus, the tone is set from the start: the play is a feminist one that is not afraid of mentioning diverse identities. However, The Crazy and Outrageous History of Women does not hold its radical promises throughout.

The choice of sets and costumes is very simple though smart. Diane Prost stands on a stage that only displays a coffin, a chair, and a white screen in the background. Her only costume is a silky nightgown that she uses to create all kinds of outfits to illustrate the stories she tells. She makes all kinds of outfits appear from this gown, from an antique robe to a 19th-century style dress. The actress’s body is at the centre of the show, and as she embodies women who made history, she proves that she and all of these women’s bodies exist by themselves and not as a subject of an exterior (male) gaze. The play’s feminist statement is very clear in this way, and the simple set and costume make it even more striking.

The stories that Diane Prost tells, which rely on historical content, are interesting but tend to remain quite shallow. This is not necessarily a bad thing, because the play is meant for a wide public, and a younger audience would not need to have an extensive lecture on the history of feminism. However, the subject does seem to be very shallow at times, which makes the play’s content a little frustrating. Moreover, for a play that wants to be inclusive, it seems that the historical characters that are highlighted are not extremely varied, nor outrageous. 

The author of the play might be aware of this shortcoming because, at the end of the play, Diane Prost tells the spectator that the people involved in the play have privileges. This creates a strange feeling, and the ending is made even stranger when the actress changes into a tracksuit and starts sticking paper to the floor and writing on it, like the now-famous feminist movement of the Feminist Collages in France. This could have been a good idea, but unfortunately fell short as it was hard to see what the message was. This semi-failed political gesture was also intercut with a sequence of contemporary dance, to the sound of Beyoncé and the French Women’s Liberation Movement anthem. The mix was a bold one but was unfortunately not convincing enough to create a powerful ending.

Summary in French:

Le ton de La Folle et Inconvenante Histoire des Femmes semble être lancé dès son titre: le spectacle va parler de féminisme décomplexé et inclusif. Avec une mise en scène qui mise tout sur la simplicité (la scène est vêtue d’un écran blanc, d’une chaise sur la droite, et d’un cercueil orné de fleurs sur la gauche), la comédienne Diane Prost réussit à porter un spectacle drôle et dynamique à elle seule. Elle est vêtue d’un ensemble rose pâle à partir duquel elle créera les costumes correspondants à ses différentes impersonations: c’est efficace et divertissant. Seulement, le spectacle ne tient pas toutes ses promesses. L’histoire racontée n’est pas si inconvenante que ça et reste très vague. Le spectacle, fait pour un large public, est tout de même intéressant, bien que sa conclusion puisse laisser les sur leur réserve.