The Pimp

Review: Time Out 24.05.06

Charles Baudelaire was a big pimpin’ lyricist of nineteenth century Paris, dropping couplets while hustlin’ hoes – a Snoopy Froggy Frogg, if you will.

This being a man of sensitivity and standing,,, however, the relationship with his mulatto mistress was complicated, emotional and symbiotic. His living arrangement with Jeanne Duval inspired him to write sensual poetry and her to play the cosseted courtesan. “I must live the paradox” he exclaims; as a bourgeois with an inheritance to fritter on absinthe and poesy, the starving artist in the garret lark was always just an act.

Until, that is, his mother finds out he is living with a black prostitute (“how black” she replies). Buckling under pressure from her meddling scaremongering solicitor (who is inspired by jealousy and the upholding of a culture of “double-entry bookkeeping), she stops the inheritance from Charles’s late father…

This is all suitably silly – we have thankfully been spared a po-faced, righteous riff on “Jefferson in Paris”. The absurd dresses balloon in this tiny space like monstrous jellyfish. Will Tosh interprets the dandy from a sideways slant, yet he also lets you see the slow unfurling of stanzas in his raddled mind.
Dic Edwards has written a funny and lyrical piece, punctuated by glistening detail: Jeanne’s hair “smells of distances”; Baudelaire harbours an irrational hatred of Belgians. The play is surprisingly relevant with a recognisable French bourgeois panic in the face of negritude despite a more innocent age of pimpin’. He didn’t even have a pole in his garret. Benjamin Davi

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By Paul Vale
Published Mon 24 April 2006 at 11:45

Poet and dandy Charles Baudelaire sets up home with an actress prompting his doting mother to launch a seemingly endless campaign to expel her from his life. Dic Edwards new play touches upon a selection of themes such as rebellion and racism as the Western world begins a new era of modernity.
The language of Edward’s script is delightfully classical and yet its heavy use of the vernacular works remarkably well thanks to tight performances and a wonderful sense of pace given by director Ana Dirckinck-Holmfeld.

Anna Lindup give a fine, multi-layered performance as Baudelaire’s intriguing and emotional mother. Hers is not the expected dowager widow and the hints of the passion beneath the crinoline. Her ally in battle is the ridiculous lawyer Narcisee Desire Ancelle played by Timothy Dodd whose scenes as the go-between bring much humour to the play. Dodd masters this role beautifully and tinges the lawyers philosophies with an almost innocent menace.

Lara Agar-Stoby obviously relishes her role as Jeanne and plays it to perfection. Edwards has given the character a lively voice and it is this role which lifts the play. Will Tosh as Charles seems to take some time settling into the role and in the early scenes he appears very awkward on stage. Fortunately, the later scenes and his final demise are well handled.
Tandis Jenhudson has created a thoughtful score to compliment the piece and Ellen Kyriacou’s costume designs offer a flamboyant contrast to Sadie Tilbury’s Spartan setting.

back to the main chronology of Dic Edwards' plays | back to the opening page of the Dic Edwards site 26 April 2006
Paris 1842. One intoxicating evening Charles Baudelaire, poet and dandy par excellence, encounters the Creole actress Jeanne. When their inter-racial relationship is exposed, his mother and the Baudelaire family lawyer begin a two-decade campaign to drive Jeanne out of his life, with unsettling and unexpected results.

Dic Edwards is one of the hottest writers around at the moment, and no stranger to controversy - his last mock opera featured a female suicide bomber as the heroine. This is a brilliantly observed period piece, with authentic language and social mores, but still liberally peppered with horrible brutality between characters. After all, there's no reason to think the Victorians weren't just as rude and beastly as we are.

We're not massive fans of shock tactics at and ventured along to this show after some excellent notices - entirely justified. This is visceral, gut wrenching theatre with nasty language and nudity, but shot through with humanity. The characters are entirely realistic, and brilliantly acted, and the play is a triumph, confronting the repellent side of human nature but also celebrating love and loyalty. 23rd April 2006
Jonathan Grant & Nirmal Grewal
This is a play about the pimp, the poet and the paradox. Charles Baudelaire (Will Tosh) is the heir to a handsome fortune and has fashionable society at his beckoning in 19th-century Paris. Yet, in true intelligentsia style, and au fait with the times, he rebels against conventionality and takes a mistress, a muse for his poetry, choosing one who is an ex-prostitute of Creole origin at that.
Baudelaire is a poet, aspiring yet failing, and The Pimp, now at Kennington’s White Bear Theatre, is, prima facie, the story of his struggles to publish his works – considered obscene for the age. Yet his liaison dangerous, with the self-destructive Jeanne (Lara Agar-Stoby), and the actions and reactions of Paris’ opulent classes, provides the interesting and substantive part of this story.
Superbly written, full of Wilde-like witticisms and aphorisms that are sharp enough to peel words back to contextual reality, the dialogues between the cast, also including Caroline Aupick (Anna Lindup), Charles despairing mother, and the aptly named Narcisse Desire Ancelle (Timothy Dodd) are well delivered, with a delightful depth of intelligence. The frustrated poet himself, who, with each desperate attempt to cut loose from the privileged class he belongs merely serves to tighten that bond on which he depends so heavily, clearly understands his position.

The characters are acutely defined in true Oscar Wilde tradition. Ex-prostitute Jeanne is a maverick who, after claiming she’s “lived on the streets and the world that put (her) there is a world of contracts” enters a contract with Baudelaire that ultimately breaks her spirit far more than the streets ever could. Ancelle, the self-proclaimed “crusader for the values of wealth against anarchy” and firm proponent of double-entry book-keeping, who has a self-destroying penchant for black prostitutes, is a staunch traditionalist.
Stunning period costume in a classy design is perhaps, however, a saving grace for some. See this play you like the wit of Wilde. Don’t if you despair at hatchet racist commentary or crude characterisations.

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