Drayton Arms Theatre

SARAH QUAND MÊME at the Drayton Arms Theatre

“a confusing and frustrating experience”

Sarah Quand Même is a one-woman show about the life of Sarah Bernhardt, a French actress who recalls her life to her granddaughter Lysiane. You need to know that the entire play is performed in a thick French accent with a shrill infantilising affectation that grows tiring over the course of 80 minutes. There is little distinction between the various characters in Sarah’s life which also makes it almost impossible to discern different voices; an absolutely terminal mistake for a one-woman show. The play is a confusing and frustrating experience as a result. There are brief moments where some kind of distinction between characters is made, allowing occasional insight and intrigue into her life- but these are few and far between.

Written and acted by Susie Lindeman, Sarah is performed in a one note state seemingly permanently on the verge of crying in an over-the top fashion that speeds through dialogue. Moments in Sarah’s life that are genuinely heartfelt feel parodied and lost in the hysterical mess of scenes that are sometimes separated with the sound of champagne popping. The viewer is left totally lost and unable to understand any kind of story. In a curious choice of direction by Wayne Harrison, pieces of paper scattered across the stage are picked up, played with and discarded as we go through the chapters of Sarah’s life, possibly in homage to her life reading scripts. The tale of a poorly received and misunderstood actor feels hard to sympathise with when watching a play that is so worthy of criticism.

A lone highlight is the atmospheric and evocative lighting design (Martin Kinnane). The use of footlights evoke the stage lighting of Sarah’s era and heighten scenes, even when what is happening in them is unclear. The bold spotlights contrast with the ethereal colours as Lindeman floats around the stage in various night dresses. Another surprisingly well executed aspect is the set design. A decadent set of regency chairs and a deep red chaise lounge place us well in the time period, accompanied by Art deco posters and a light-bulb adorned dressing room desk (Justin Nardella).

As all linear biographies are destined to end with a death, It is not a surprise that Sarah Quand Même includes an almost comically slow and drawn out death that epitomises the problems with the performance. No amount of beautiful and underused set could fix the issues with the piece and the 80 minutes spent in the Drayton Arms could be better spent on more polished and watchable shows. Sarah Bernhardt may have been a fascinating and extraordinary person in her time but this performance did not portray this through its content or execution.

SARAH QUAND MÊME at the Drayton Arms Theatre

Reviewed on 29th February 2024

by Jessica Potts

Photography by Darren Struwig




Recently reviewed by Jessica:

TWO ROUNDS | ★★★ | Jermyn Street Theatre | February 2024
WISH YOU WEREN’T HERE | ★★★ | Soho Theatre | February 2024



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