Eugène Labiche presented one of the representative French plays of the 1800s. The Voyage de Monseieur Perrichon aims to portray and present a commentary on the historical and social realities of the time. The play is written in four parts and was presented for the first time on September 10, 1860, at the Theater of Gymnase in Paris.
About Eugène Labiche
Eugène Marin Labiche was a French dramatist born in France on May 5, 1815. He hailed from the upper-middle-class and pursued law to become a lawyer. He showed early talent as a writer by by the time he was twenty, where his short story about the most stunning things being the fakest/false elements, was published by the Cherubin magazine.
His professional career began in 1838 when he attempted writing dramatic criticism at the Revue théâtres. His first two plays premiered at a small theatre called Théâtre Pantheon: a drama called L’Avocat Loubet and a vaudeville play. Throughout his time as a playwright, he collaborated with many others in several of his plays. In fact, Labiche is most known for his 1851 farcical play which he wrote in association with Marc-Michel.
Summary of the Play
The Voyage of Monsieur Perrichon portrays the story of a wealthy, bourgeois family, the Perrichons. They were led by the man of the family, Monsieur Perrichon who was a coachbuilder by profession. The plot of the play revolved around Monsieur Perrichon’s decision to go on a pleasure trip with the company of his family: his wife, Caroline and his daughter Henriette. After arriving at the Gare of Lyon in Paris from their train journey that began from the Swiss Alps, the family happens to encounter two age-appropriate and desirable suitors for the Henriette. The remaining events of the story revolve around the suitors’ farcical and absurdist attempts to be victorious of winning the hand of the Perrichon’s daughter in marriage.
Historical Context of the Play
The play was written throughout 1860 and inspired by the current events of the time which was the annexation of Nice and Savoie by France. However, the political and historical events of the period were absent in the play as the play was a comedy de manners. The railway that connected the territories was instead the main focus of the Le Voyage de Monsieur Perrichon. For instance, the expansion of the train network from Geneva via Lyon was highlighted in the play. The play is a social commentary on the upper-class society in 19th century France. Labiche even commented on how the bourgeois class presented rich artistic and literary material: “This animal (the bourgeois) offers countless resources to those who know how to see them, it is inexhaustible. “
The play is said to be quite different from his other works with regards to the setting. Labiche’s past plays featured his characters in a domestic environment while in the Le Voyage of Mr.Perrichon, the audience takes a journey with a Perrichon family. The triumphant success of the play landed Labiche the title of “king of the Vaudeville.” Le Voyage de Monsieur Perrichon’s popularity proved to be long lasting, even until 1906 and was eventually added into the repertory of Comédie Française.