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Home arrow Archive: Earlier Fringes arrow Archive: Edinburgh 2012 arrow Presidential Suite: a Modern Fairy Tale
 
Presidential Suite: a Modern Fairy Tale
Published on Friday, 10 August 2012
4

4 stars

C venues - C eca (venue website)
Theatre
1-18 Aug, 7:25pm-8:45pm
Reviewed by Allison Mckeon

 Recommended for age 14+ only.
 Free and unticketed. No pre-booking required.

Having a basic familiarity with current events – and by that I mean using the internet frequently and catching the televised news from time to time – I was aware of the Strauss-Kahn scandal, and had a rough idea of what to expect in terms of plot from Presidential Suite. What I did not expect was a brazenly honest show, which stripped down one of 2011’s biggest sex scandals to expose its nucleus: the corrupt hegemony of wealth and patriarchy.

The show navigates the personal dynamics between Richard Chataigne, a moneyed French economist who has been indicted by New York with various accounts of sexual misconduct; his wife Madame Chataigne (independent both financially and otherwise); their shrewd, veteran lawyer Jordan Pershing; Elizabeth Granger, a green and eager Ivy League law grad representing the complainant; and of course Hermione St. Cloud, a maid and the alleged victim of Mr. Chataigne’s unwanted hotel room advances. Its glory is in the rawness of the behind-the-scenes interaction between these key players, in what is superficially a legal battle but more a challenge of the status quo. Ms. Granger’s spunky and spirited combat of Mr. Pershing’s comfortable, masculine arrogance underscores the main themes of feminist assertiveness, the tenacity of the underdog, and merit of doing the right thing in the face of difficulty.

The set’s not much, which did a lot for the show - two chairs maybe, but no other props, and modest costumes congruous with each character’s role. The decision to forego the usual frippery of theatre was brilliant and emphasized the all-important gender politics of the show; a maid’s costume and a conspicuously well-tailored suit could have taken away the characters’ opportunities to establish themselves with dialogue and body language. And establish they did: hats off to the surprising villain of the show, Madame Chataigne, whose empassioned and flooring performance was so fixating I stopped scribbling notes just to watch the maddened manipulation of it.

My few quibbles came mainly from technical issues rather than any fault with the core of the show. Ms. Granger stumbled as her speeches were gaining momentum six times at my count, and sometimes seemed at least oddly complacent if not grossly plucky in the face of her client’s grappling with a grave emotional dilemma. However, this aloofness came off as relative pureness of spirit in her scenes with Mr. Pershing and Madame Chataigne, and in these cases served her well.

The show artfully side-steps obvious hazards of its subject matter – not just tugging but yanking on heart-strings, or coming off as inappropriately callous – and is intelligent, original, and well worth the tenner for admission. As hoped for of a dramatic performance rife with by scandal, sex, and politics, “Presidential Suite” is compelling, unsettling, and deliciously controversial.

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FROM OUR ARCHIVES

These are archived reviews of shows from Edinburgh 2012.  We keep our archives online as a courtesy to performers, and for readers who'd like to research previous years' reviews.

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