Review: Camille Claudel, Pleasance Courtyard

Gael Le Cornec as Camille Claudel

Gael Le Cornec as Camille Claudel

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THERE’S an elephant in the room that needs to be dealt with. Or, to put it in a less dramatic way, there’s one minor quibble I have.

****

The poster for Camille Claudel promises us the “untold story” of the eponymous French sculptor and Auguste Rodin’s lover, but that is 
obviously a porky pie.

The artist has been the subject of countless plays, books and even an Oscar-nominated film in 1988, starring Isabelle Adjani as Claudel and Gerard Depardieu as Rodin.

Pedantry aside, the new production from French-Brazilian actress, writer and director Gaël Le Cornec, star of previous sell-out Fringe hits The Last Days Of Gilda and Frida Kahlo, is a thoroughly engaging one-woman show.

It’s a compelling portrait of the unhappy life of Rodin’s student, model and mistress, who was to spend the last 30 years of her life in a lunatic 
asylum after becoming a brilliant sculptress in her own right.

With a basic set, no costume changes, and very few props, it’s a simplistic staging that combines contemporary storytelling and visual theatre with an original score by Adam Pleeth (Kneehigh’s Brief Encounter). The text is a joy to the ears, and the play works at so many levels, with Cornec occasionally breaking down the fourth wall to take audience along for the ride.

A lot like the tormented and gifted Mexican artist Kahlo, whom she excelled in portraying at last year’s Fringe, Cornec’s Claudel is a tortured soul, racked with pain and longing. But she’s also an incandescent life force.

Laughing uproariously and dancing drunkenly one minute and balling uncontrollably the next, the actress goes through the mill of emotions that was the life of this complex, fascinating character who spiralled out of control at exhausting speed.

It’s a performance that will haunt you.

Until August 27