Ce formidable bordel!

by Eugène Ionesco

A transposition of The Hermit, the only novel written by Ionesco, Ce formidable bordel! was staged for the first time on November 14, 1973 at the ThéâtreModerne in Paris.

Ionesco took the inspiration for the main character from a star of silent cinema: Buster Keaton, copying his laconic style and surprised detachment. The inspiration for the subject came from Dostoevsky.

It tells the story of what happens to the Character, as Ionesco calls him, following an unexpected inheritance that allows him to quit his job, move house and make a break with all the people he knew before. With no commitments, he tries to live in his own way. “In the play the main character is silent, it is others who speak for him. To a certain extent the others are projections of his thought. But only in part. Much more often the people whom he sees and hears, with whom he enters or does not enter into contact, are living enigmas for him… He is unable to understand. The majority of men are satisfied with a limited understanding that does not alter our fundamental ignorance. As for the Character, he is not able to adapt… So he lives in surprise, astonished by what happens.” (Ionesco, theater program, 1973).

It is not the place of the presenter and still less of the translator to make judgments about Marina Spreafico’s production and the actors’ performance. But I would like to make a few surmises as to why it has been such a success: the direction has been so attentive to the text that the ideas seem to arise by themselves. Marina does not like frills and follows a method that is little used today: she places herself at the service of the writer, with a wholly inner creativity that does nothing to draw attention to itself. The actors have gone along with her in this with a commendable unanimity of intent. Sometimes in theater even a lack of conceit can be useful. The reason for the production’s  success lies in the knowing innocence of the group: in an auditorium like the Arsenale’s, so bare and so like a temple, the theater can only rely on its own values.

Sandro Bajini