LE FOULARD at Koninklijke Schouwburg Paradijs in The Hague

A stage can be a hostile and lonely environment for an actor, never more so than when that actor is alone, presenting their own one-person show. Each audience is different, each audience is an entity with its own personality so a performer can never be complacent. It takes a lot of guts and confidence to stand up there alone and exposed, performing your own material with no safety net.

Lucy Hopkins’ one-woman show Le Foulard is perhaps more dangerous than most in as much as it is difficult to define or pigeon-hole, so the audience does not really know what to expect – and audiences like to know what to expect, they like to be prepared. Ms Hopkins’ act is billed as a comedy – “Art, made with love by an idiot” – but to me the laughs, and there were plenty of them, were almost an adjunct to the insights and truths of the fast moving text and relentless enactment.

Wearing a black leotard and tights engulfed in an ever-swirling enormous scarf (le foulard of the title) it is hard to describe Lucy Hopkins – she is a sort or cross between Marcel Marceau and Joyce Grenfell. The three conflicting characters she portrays are defined and described by the huge billowing scarf, which acts as costume, props and scenery. There is the initial, self-important arteeeeest who is very much into art-soul and very much at home there and there is her grand and posturing nemesis who rather put me in mind of Greta Garbo, or maybe Bela Lugosi. In between is a shy, gauche and rather pathetic creature desperately trying to make friends, to make contact with someone, anyone.

Le Foulard moves along at the same faster-than-light speed as the swishing scarf but each character gets their moment in the sun. I particularly liked the lonely lady in the sad café desperately trying to make eye contact with someone, the first step in establishing a friendship. I also liked the witty rendition of La Vie en Rose, complete with verbal sub-titles

This is much more than a comedy and Ms Hopkins is no idiot. All good comedy is based on truth and there is a great deal of truth, and honesty, in Le Foulard. It is about a lot of things but what those things have in common is that they are finally stripped bare – it’s all about cutting the crap. The dénouement strips away more than just le foulard which is left lying forlorn and abandoned in the middle of the empty stage.

Against, I have to admit, my initial expectations, I enjoyed and admired Lucy Hopkins and her foulard. A good, solid piece of inspired theatre which I would certainly recommend.

Michael Hasted   12th October 2018