La Voisin, VAULT Festival

by Zahid Fayyaz

Billed as a work-in-progress, this is a four-person play set in 17th century France, based on the true story of ‘La Voisin’, otherwise known as Catherine Montvoisin, a female poisoner who was said to have murdered thousands of people in Paris. The play centres around the concept of a police recreation of what happened when one of King Louis’s mistresses hires Montvoisin to make the king first fall in love with her, and then when that doesn’t work, to attempt to poison him. The four actors both act out the events of what was purported to happen during the time frame of the events in question, and in a metatheatrical twist, question the nature of the story being written and its validity.

This show is from a new, women-led company called Paprichoo. Whilst it’s a work-in-progress, it moved along at a brisk and confident pace. There is some confusion around some of the timelines and what exactly happens, and whilst the acting is generally very good, it can be a little hard to keep track of who is playing who. However, it is darkly funny, and though the poisoners in question are serial killers, they are portrayed with humanity. It’s easy to end up rooting for them over their pursuer, the policeman Gabriel Nicholas, who is portrayed as arrogant and privileged. Some of the set pieces, such as the climatic, black mass recreation, are low-tech but work very well within the festival’s constraints.

It needs a little more work, but it’s easy to see the clear potential for this show. I look forward to seeing it in the future once it develops further.

La Voisin runs through 5 March.

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