We went last night to a play! At the Everyman Theatre on North Charles, we saw “Shipwrecked! An Entertainment. The Amazing Adventures of Louis De Rougemont (As Told By Himself)”. Whew, what a mouthful!
The whole play was like that – rococo with the language of romance-adventure and filled with sea-monsters, deserted islands, aboriginal maidens, and so on and so forth. The form and content are well known and still enjoyable.
Rather than sticking to the 19th century version of the adventure, this is moves into the 20th century (though not beyond) by framing the story as an exhibition given by the main character, a storytelling that we have agreed to hear. He begins by stating that it’s amazing and that IT’S ALL TRUE!!! But the story doesn’t end at rescue. Louis takes us into the London to which he returns, where his story is published, lauded, rewarded, criticized, and finally excoriated as mostly lies. The overwhelming sadness of Louis (the exhibitor performing the amazing story) is played straight, with his cohort bringing a script on stage and prompting him to help him past the heavy emotion of his shame.
As with so many stories, this one questions whether fact and fiction are the important matters, or whether true and false are somehow, in a story, independent of fact. However much of his story is made-up (and, unlike in Yann Martel’s “Life of Pi”, there is no factual recap to restructure our understanding of the story), it is fun to the very end. It’s a good story, and therefore has part of truth on its side.