The Curious Pain of Louis XIV describes a time when France was in an economic slump and The Sun King himself was embroiled in a lifeless marriage and a sexually charged relationship with his mistress. This however, was difficult to decipher, as the first act appeared little more than a meditation on said idea without ‘following the bright white light’ and progressing the story.
Perhaps I am being too rash as The Curious Pain did have some interesting moments, of particular note was the dream sequence in which Louis takes heed of the guidance of the Bishop of Con-Dom at the close of the first act. The second act stepped up the narrative and brought into play some of the more visually and thematically interesting ideas, such as black magic and the sacrifice of a child. The direction here was disappointing, it was an interesting choice to use the catwalk of the theatre, and indeed it might have worked very well, if not for the fact that the actor was obscured by the lighting rig for much of it. This may be symptomatic of my seats being in the nosebleeds, but nonetheless sight lines are an important point to consider when directing theatre.
This brings me to the space itself. I saw some decent performances from the entire ensemble, but much dialogue and singing was lost due to the dry acoustics of the downstairs theatre. The acoustics stifled what I could faintly work out were accomplished vocal chords! The music itself didn’t seem quite so accomplished. While I’m aware that recurring thematic material is an idiomatic component of musical theatre, the incessant use of musical motifs and stylistically identical ‘bordello’ type compositions meant that the music became monotonous and all too predictable. Moments of musical contrast were limited if not lacking. To their credit The Curious Pain transitioned seamlessly between dialogue and music and the musicians moved through a repetitive score with precision and gusto.
I know it’s a ubiquitous phrase for a reviewer to use but indeed, this piece did have a great deal of potential to be a raunchy, risqué, almost burlesque piece of theatre, but it fell short of the mark in my opinion. The story itself wasn’t enough to facilitate an entire night at the theatre.
The Curious Pain of Louis XIV is not the best piece of theatre you might see in your life but it wasn’t a complete pain in the arse!
Heinz Schweers in association with Under the Table Productions presents
The Curious Pain of Louis XIV
Music/Lyrics/Book written by Heinz Schweers
Venue: Seymour Centre Downstairs
Dates/Times: Wed 18 – Sat 21 April at 8pm; Matinees Wed 18 and Sat 21 at 2pm
Preview: 17 April at 8pm
Tickets: Adult $30, Concession, groups 10+ and preview $25; Matinees $25/20
Bookings: Seymour Centre Box Office 02 9351 7940