Book review the keyhole by Jean Tardieu
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Book review: The Keyhole

Book review of The Keyhole by Jean Tardieu

This book review of The Keyhole by Jean Tardieu, is a part of my “A play a week” reading challenge. Basically, it means that I try to read a play each week for a year, ending up with 52 scripts in total. So really, The Keyhole is more a script than an actual book.

The Keyhole and absurd voyerism

This script definitely had a lot going on in the subtext. Not in the naturalistic way obviously, but I saw this script play out in my mind in so many different ways while reading it. It was like the opposite feeling of reading Professor Taranne by Arthur Adamov.

Basically, a man walks in and is told by a madamme to wait for the lady to appear. He will be able to watch her from the other side of a giant keyhole. He is anxious and the script and dialogue is filled with an anxious energy. It’s within the absurd tradition (The script is included in a collection of “Modern French Absurd Plays” I own), and should be read as such.

(The image below does not correspond with the book in which I read the script. My copy is an antique from the 1950s and impossible to find a picture of. Also, it’s not as pretty as this one, so enjoy!)

Book review the keyhole by Jean Tardieu

A waiting game with no end

In the script, the lady on the other side of the keyhole, is undressing herself. This is narrated by the character watching. It seems that undressing and stripping down is the exciting part. But Tardieu doesn’t stop at the line. In fact, it’s as if there is no line to cross, as the lady keeps on stripping, even when you’d think there was nothing left.

I thought it was a really good script, that still holds up today in 2020. There is so much you can tell with this play, and so many ways to frame and stage it. I enjoyed all the ideas that sprung to mind and it was a bonus that it was so high energy and well-paced. It also has room for grotesque comedy, which is a plus for me.

Have you read any french absurdist plays yet or are you doing the 52 plays challenge too? I’d like to know what you think of my review of The Keyhole in the comments below – feel free to leave me a comment so I know you were here!

If you want to read more book reviews, you can see my entire collection of online book reviews right here>>. I also have a list just for performing arts books here>>.

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