Overview

Balcony


Show Summary Details

Quick Reference

A: Jean Genet Pf: 1957, London; 1960, Paris Pb: 1956; rev. 1960, 1962 Tr: 1958 G: Drama in 9 scenes; French prose S: Brothel and café in a European city, mid-20th c. C: 17m, 7fA Bishop hears the confession of a scantily clad young woman. He is interrupted by Irma, the Madame of a brothel: the ‘bishop’ is a client acting out his fantasy. Meanwhile there are riots on the streets outside. In another room, a beautiful young thief is whipped by the Executioner and makes the Judge lick her feet. Elsewhere, a General rides on his prostitute like a horse and acts out his death in battle. The Chief of Police, Irma's former lover, now impotent but still her protector, comes in search of a fantasy Chief of Police. The Executioner, Irma's present lover, announces the rebels' victory and is killed by a stray bullet. In a café, the revolutionary leader, a plumber, plans to make his beloved prostitute a symbol of the revolution. When the authorities collapse, the fantasists in the brothel are persuaded to act out their roles for real. Irma as Queen leads them out to be acclaimed by the crowds. The plumber's prostitute is shot dead, and the revolution is defeated. The clients begin to enjoy their new-found power. The Chief of Police comes to assert his authority, but gives way to the plumber, who assumes his identity, even to the extent of castrating himself. Irma dismisses the Bishop and the others and begins to give out new roles, reminding the audience that they too will be playing their own parts when they get home.

A: Jean Genet Pf: 1957, London; 1960, Paris Pb: 1956; rev. 1960, 1962 Tr: 1958 G: Drama in 9 scenes; French prose S: Brothel and café in a European city, mid-20th c. C: 17m, 7f

The shocking content of The Balcony, first directed by Peter Zadek in London, caused a furore, added to by Genet's pulling a gun on Zadek when he disapproved of Zadek's direction. The play offers a spectacularly theatrical exploration of the relationship between fantasy and reality and cynically analyses the way in which power is dependent on public reception, a theme to be developed by the Situationists two decades later.

Subjects: Literary Studies (Plays and Playwrights).


Reference entries

Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content. Please, subscribe or login to access all content.