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Hysteria, fear and delirium- four bodies one soul

4 March 2016

Augustine, a young woman diagnosed with hysteria due to the unfortunate circumstances of being raped by her mother’s lover is sent to the Salpetriere psychotic ward in Paris. Initially known as Louise, she was renamed Augustine after being sent to the hospital. To determine the extremity of her hysteria, so called doctors performed a series of tests in front of a vast public. People from all over came to witness these test subjects including the renowned Oscar Wilde. These experimentations served as inspiration for many great works of the 20th century. Nadège Reveillon, intrigued by the character of Louise- Augustine, is a playwright that used her story as the basis for her play, Louise- Augustine —fugue.

French Language and Literature students had the opportunity to go and see the play performed. Following this outing, the students had prepared a set of questions for the playwright Nadège Reveillon and the stage director Isis Fahmy. After seeing a play, the audience is normally left behind with a multitude of questions that more often than not remain unanswered. However, this time, the IB students were able to obtain answered to their numerous questions.

The play itself left the audience awestruck as well as mixed feeling of confusion. The play, originally written as a monologue was performed by four actors representing body and soul. Having read the play beforehand, the students felt confused yet intrigued to see a monologue being performed by more than one person. The overall staging was simple yet effective. The room was dark with little lighting, actors were dressed in flesh coloured clothes and the only prop on stage was a kevlar line used as a drum.

There was a multitude of emotions packed into a forty-five minute long play. On stage emotions of hysteria, anger and suicide were reflected through the sound effects and lighting. In the audience, feelings of confusion, fear and anxiety resonated. This was all due to the effective use of props, for example the lighting. It was used to create a mood and emphasise the general ambiance. When asked about this, the stage director simply said that she wanted the public to feel uncomfortable and watched by the actors, this is exactly what the audience felt.

This was an enriching experience for the IB Literature group, due to the fact that they were able to experience first hand a play. It is important to remember that plays are written to be performed and not read, therefore being able to study it and then see it performed professionally added insight to our views on the work of art. Being able to meet those who are responsible for such a masterpiece allowed the students to gain further insight on the play Louise- Augustine.

Victoria Perrin & Victoire Raffy