The same, at least for younger readers, may also apply to the unpronounceable Anouilh ("Anooeeh", for the record). In his own lifetime, though, he was by far the most frequently staged French dramatist in Britain. In the 1960s, when not a year passed without some starrily prestigious and sumptuously upholstered production of one of his works - one might cite, in chronological disorder, The Waltz of the Toreadors with Leo McKern, The Rehearsal with Phyllis Calvert and Maggie Smith, Dear Antoine, with Edith Evans and John Clements - it felt as though Anouilh could do no wrong. He wed the verbal preciosity of Cocteau and Giraudoux to the weary, gemutlich cynicism of Molnar and Schnitzler, and stirred into this already heady cocktail the theatrical illusionism that bears the name of its pioneering spirit, Pirandello. Yet his plays could never be mistaken for anyone else's. What happened?
He lived too long and, above all, he wrote too much. From the evidence of his public pronouncements, he himself turned into a jaundiced, illiberal misanthrope, and his work came to seem both reactionary and repetitive, trotting out as it regularly did that old vaudeville duo, Appearance and Reality, for yet another benefit performance, like Neil Simon's Sunshine Boys. With the staging of his very late, almost nauseatingly crabby plays his stock plummeted further until, in the Michelin cultural guide, he lost the last of his three stars. And still he wrote. And maybe wrote himself out of the future.
GILBERT ADAIRReuse content