Pézenas and Richard II

October 23, 2010

It’s joyous to sleep in—we have no plans for the morning. But we have invited Catherine and Stephen for a grand lunch in thanks for putting up with us for 3 weeks at their beautiful apartment. Our first thought was to enjoy lunch at a 1-star Michelin restaurant in a very small village nearby. But it is closed and we are glad it is because instead we enjoy a lunch at L’Entre Pots in Pézenas (8 Avenue Louis Montagne). We have been to Pézenas many times and have never discovered this fantastic restaurant.

The décor is lovely and clearly this place is a favorite—all the tables are taken. We start with rosé champagne—oh, la, la it is good. The next course is a fantastic lentil soup with garnishes of escargot and pigs feet (H says the best course and that’s saying a lot considering the following courses). For the main course Howard and Catherine have medium rare-cooked tuna on a bed of risotto; Stephan and I have about an inch thick cut of veal with aligot (a regional mashed potatoes of sorts) and a nice mélange of vegetables. Some might argue that dessert is the very best course: Baba au rum—a very light cake flavored with rum that is cooked in an old-fashioned canning jar (with a lid that clamps down on the top) served with custard cream. A large bottle of rum is served on the side in case the cake’s rum is not enough. We will kill for that recipe! Catherine asks the server if the chef would give it up. We translate the response as something like No Chance!

The Harleys make us order the wine—what pressure! On the wine list H and I recognize one wine-maker’s name, R. Poujol. We love Domaine du Poujol’s rosé wine! But we still bow to the expertise of the sommelier. And he recommends the same wine!

It is a fabulous lunch. We return home to rest up for our evening soirée, a reenactment of Shakespeare’s play Richard II, a fund-raiser for the cancer support group in which the Hartley’s are involved.

Stephan has thankfully gives us a synopsis of Richard II on our way to the location of the play, a patron’s home in a village far away (it seems) from home. I am amazed that Cat can find it! Without that synopsis all four of us would have been sawing logs 15 minutes into the play. When the play is introduced (at 7:30pm), they tell us that the first part of the play before the intermission will be about
1 ½ hours; and the second half will be about an hour. What??!! We’ll never make it…

The play is to be held at a personal residence—a typical old and large French village house. There are two HUGE Labrador retrievers living at the house. The improvised “theater” is a large room with a sitting area, a dining room and, at one end of room, there is a sunroom section for the stage. It is a very intimate setting.

The players tell us that the characters of the play will be represented by symbols and proceed to show us the symbols of each character of the play. For example, King Richard’s character has a person behind him/her that holds up their hands in an array behind the king’s head representing his crown. The purpose of these “symbols” is to be able to recognize each character since the actors are not in costume. It seems weird at the beginning but this idea is the foundation of the very interesting approach to this Shakespeare play. During the play each character has two or three people along-side them and these ancillary people mime components of the character’s personality to give the audience a multi-faceted view of the character. For instance, a very old man in the play would have one “main” actor saying the dialogue of the character (and the main person playing the character would change constantly) while 2 or 3 people would literally be hanging onto the main actor (like they are one body) but moaning like an old man in pain or really scowling to show his personality. It’s difficult to describe—I should have video-taped it.

All four of us say later that we were not at all bored or unfocused on the play during the 2 ½ hours. It was incredibly interesting and made us want to see other Shakespeare plays. And talking with the actors after the play was almost as fascinating as the play itself.

There was one funny situation that occurred during the play. One scene had two actors playing barking and howling dogs. Well, the dogs of the household started barking like mad and a visiting little poodle (named, of all things, Patricia) in the “theater” struggled to run up to the actors. But the actors stayed in character in spite of the distractions.

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