A world of fear, where brother betrayed sister and neighbours were far from neighbourly; trust was impossible as suspicion was rife. The infamous phrase “Kill them all, God will know his own” is still a terrifying thought yet the Cathar ‘heretics’ were persecuted and killed in horrific ways – men, women, children and priests.
So I was pleased and intrigued to see Théâtre Volière tackle such a fascinating subject, once again combining past and present with French and English for a story woven between the centuries and across countries.
Intimate and intense, Consolation tells the story of Carol (Holly Joyce) who is living in the Languedoc and helping other writers to find themselves. Her choice of location might seem strange to those less familiar with the region’s rich, magical history, yet Carol believes herself to have been a troubadour in a past life.
Raymond (Danny Solomon) is an actor, working at the castle’s Visitor Centre as the mighty chevalier who tells the histories to audiences who have come to uncover the mysteries of Dan Brown and Kate Mosse. Raymond is a dedicated performer, yet angry and secretive.
He and Carol meet and their clashing personalities lead to an interesting (albeit not sexual) relationship and we unravel their stories across the ages, all of which are linked to a mysterious woman in white. Who is she and what has become of her?
Writer Mick Wood uses both beautiful and very colourful language, managing to gently inject humour into the piece, through the rapid French conversations Raymond has on the phone, the mistakes he makes with his English and the relationship between him and Carol. This not only humanises the piece, but also helps to break up the intensity of the storyline.
What makes this production so enthralling, is that the story itself is cleverly told through the use of the castle’s accompanying films for the reenactments, complete with suitable Mediaeval music and screen Skype conversations with Carol’s son Jamie (Tom Grace) and his girlfriend Laura (Nathalie Barclay). The audience gradually learn the truth about each character, but the ending is as surprising as it is brilliant.
This production is beautifully put together, from the simple, yet extravagant set and the intimacy of the space, to the carefully crafted words, magnificent performances from the actors.
Reviewed by Michaela Clement-Hayes
Photo: Bobbin Production