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D’Eon

D’Eon - Hope Mill Theatre, Manchester

 

Hope Mill Theatre,
 
D’Eon
 
Straight Acting Theatre Company

Upon entering Hope Mill Theatre the audience are greeted by a pianist, a chaise longue, an armchair and a table and chair with loads of crumpled up pieces of paper. It appears as if someone is suffering from writer’s block.

D’Eon is a new play from the Straight Acting Theatre Company, written by Edinburgh Fringe First Winner; Renny Krupinski. It is based on the life of Monsieur Chevalier D’Eon de Beaumont who was born male, yet lived the later part of his life as a female. The story is made even more complicated given the fact the majority of the play is set in the 18th Century and that D’Eon fought as a soldier.

Kaitlin Howard who plays D’Eon is on stage throughout the entire two and a half hour production. She is absolutely superb in the lead role and delivers lots of light and shade to the character - she made us feel sad when D’Eon was sad and happy when D’Eon was happy. Not only that but she had a lot of choreography and stage fighting to contend with too, which she pulled off with ease.

The Straight Acting Theatre Company are a relatively new company, only being formed in 2016. They endeavour to enrich the lives of audience by producing live theatre that focuses on the detail of life and the stories we all have to tell. They really deserve a pat on the back for bringing and untold and very important story to the public’s attention.

Other notable performances come from William J Holstead who captures the nervousness and intriguement of Thomas very well. The rest of the ensemble are also fantastically committed to their roles, which one may say is not for the faint-hearted.

Although D’Eon does address a serious issue, there are also a lot of laughs in this play. Many of these come from the ensemble with the use of pigs, snakes, prosthetic penises and some sexual innuendo.

D’Eon was a very enjoyable watch and recommended.

It’s not very often you get to see a play that explores the theme of gender and equality. It’s interesting to know that the issues have stretched back as far as 200 years, yet sad that you fast forward to 2018 and things haven’t changed that much.

D’Eon runs at Hope Mill Theatre until 17th February. https://hopemilltheatre.co.uk/events/deon/

Reviewer: Brian Madden

Reviewed: 13th February 2018

North West End Rating: ★★★★

D’Eon

D’Eon

Renny Krupinski
Straight Acting Theatre Company
Hope Mill Theatre, Manchester
13 February 2018 to 17 February 2018

Plays by Renny Krupinski raise certain expectations – that there will be a degree of psychological complexity and confident physical direction.  However, one did not anticipate that Krupinski would devise a play about an 18thcentury French spy who claimed to be  female but was raised as male and went on to serve with distinction in the military and who, on return to civilian life, chose to dress as a woman.

Chevalier D'Eon de Beaumont (Kaitlin Howard), known as D'Eon is in the twilight of his/her life and living in poverty in London as a woman. Desperate for funds he/she agrees to tell his/her life story to biographer Thomas Plummer (William J. Holstead). But the process is complicated as D’Eon is haunted by the spectres of old foes that materialise to torment him/her about past incidents. D’Eon also has to cope with being the only person who is aware that Patrick Bridgeman, a man very clearly in drag, is playing the harpsichord throughout the play. D’Eon explains that, although female by birth, she was raised as a boy as that was the only way her father could inherit the family fortune.  Unwillingly retired from service to the French government D’Eon began dressing as a woman leading to speculation on the London Stock Exchange about his/her true sex. D’Eon claims to be a woman but can anyone believe a professional spy?

D'Eon is a staggeringly ambitious play. There is so much material from the subject’s fascinating life that a topic that could have inspired a play in its own right - a credible plot by France to invade England - is relegated to one of many plot threads. The abundance of material and the long list of characters and events create a real risk of confusion. At times one ends up, as with Shakespeare’s History Plays, treating the list of names and dates babbled by the spectres haunting D’Eon, as white noise and waiting until the plot resumes.

Although stuffed with absorbing facts (D’Eon’s campaign to prevent people betting on his/her sexuality resulted in legislation to ban gambling against the person) the distinguishing feature of the script is wit. The script is full of great gags and word play. When Louis XVI finds himself unable to rise to the occasion his mistress begs ‘Don’t think of England’. As Thomas Plummer, during the chaos arising from D’Eon coping with the spectres, remarks that he was unaware a certain tune originated in France he gets the deadpan reply that the French are a modest race. There is even the occasional topical reference to difficulties negotiating with the English and a shocking twist ending that is, apparently, historically accurate.

As director Krupinski throws the kitchen sink into the staging. The audience gets to see an ongoing duel between D’Eon and Plummer and there is an orgy that is so over the top and squalid it could take place in The President’s Club. But Krupinski always balances the spectacle with humour - a duel between D’Eon and an assassin is set up and then cancelled with a single word.

Such a demanding play requires, and gets, full commitment from a large cast dressed in period costume and creating a gallery of grotesques. It is an excellent ensemble. William J. Holstead’s stuttering, flinching and clumsy Thomas Plummer is both a great comic performance and a counterpoint to the confident and cynical D’Eon. But the production is dominated by a stunning performance from Kaitlin Howard who makes D’Eon an amazing and contrary character – sophisticated but crude, a loyal servant but greedy to the point of corruption and hard as nails but terribly hurt by the slights he/she endured from the government he/she served so well. The sheer physical effort involved in never leaving the stage and performing duels as well must not be overlooked.

With a dense and demanding script, imaginative direction and an excellent cast D’Eon is a play that demands to be seen and is a pleasure to watch.

Reviewer: David Cunningham

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Comments

Comment by Kevin Bourke

This fabulous and provocative show is based on one of those stories you absolutely would not dare to make up and when Renny first told me a little about it, I was very taken aback to have never even heard of Chevalier D'Eon de Beaumont, let alone know about his/her remarkable life story (although I'm led to believe there are places around the world where it might be a slightly more familiar tale). It took Renny quite a while, I understand, to get the story into viable shape for the stage but it's been time well spent and, as David mentions, bits of plot that could entirely shape a lesser play simply enrich the background here. It's dense with memorable characters and historical facts (plus more than a few good gags!) but the pace never flags. Crucially, though, it's emotion that really holds a complex and puzzling story together, largely thanks to the astonishing Kaitlin Howard, who totally owns a quicksilver role that may yet become a new definition for "challenging". The ensemble are excellent throughout, and I haven't even mentioned the sword-fighting, snakes, sex and nudity...! Catch it if you possibly can - it certainly deserves to live on in some form. .

For more information, contact us at info@manchestertheatreawards.com

D’Eon


Steve P 
Reviewed 3 days ago 
Really great venue and a fantastic play D'Eon

I saw a matinee performance of D'Eon. Absolutely brilliant play and production. One of the best things I have seen in a long time. Imaginative, a gripping true tale and one of the best female parts ever written in my view. Excellently performed by all of the cast. Funny, emotional and totally absorbing. I had to tell myself to relax at one point so gripped by the action I was tensed up. If you didn't see it you have missed a treat. So pleased it has been a sell out show. The venue is very good. Large spacious bar and lovely intimate performance space. Very trendy looking, shabby chic and reasonable bar prices

 

Elaine P Gatley, United Kingdom
Reviewed 3 days ago 
No run of the mill theatre, but an absolute theatrical treat.

I saw a matinee performance of the brilliantly written D'Eon by Renny Krupinski. Superbly brought to life by the excellent Straight Acting Theatre Company, with a breathtaking performance from Kaitlin Howard. The venue, as the name suggests, is in part of an old mill. The acting space is intimate allowing you to really feel part of the action. The atmosphere was very friendly and the bar is a great space to hang out in after the show.

D’Eon

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