The Picture (Ionesco play)
The Picture (French: Le Tableau) is a one-act play written by Eugène Ionesco and first published in Viridis Candela, the journal of the Collège de 'Pataphysique. The first performance was in Paris at the théâtre de la Huchette in October 1955, directed by Robert Postec and with Pierre Leproux, Pierre Chevallier, Tsilla Chelton, Maria Murano.
- Le Gros Monsieur, a big man
- Alice, his sister
- Le Peintre, a painter
- La Voisine, a neighbour
Le Gros Monsieur is an irresistible businessman. Le Peintre, who wants to sell him a painting, accepts to pay for renting the wall space where the picture is hanging. Alice, an old, ugly, and ill woman, is asked by her brother to lend him a hand. After the painter leaves, the brother-sister relationship is reversed and the meek creature becomes authoritarian and demanding, threatening her brother with her walking-stick. Le Gros Monsieur obeys her but, when she is not looking, he grabs a gun and shoots. A miracle happens : Alice transforms into a beautiful maid. The old and ugly neighbour comes in, and she becomes beautiful too. The painter then comes back and turns into a prince charming. Only the Gros Monsieur is sad for not being able to transform himself.
The play is subheaded Guignolade, that is a Guignol play, and Eugène Ionesco insists that it be played by Clowns in the most excessive, idiotic way. The characters shall not have any psychological depth, and the social content is merely accidental. According to the playwright, only extreme childish simplification can reveal the meaning of this farce, and it can become plausible when it is most improbable and idiotic. Idiocy can be such a revealing simplification for Ionesco.
The author's emphasis on the word "idiocy" is rather puzzling, but the contrast between ths aesthetic and the utilitarian in the play is noteworthy, and as a classical theme, it seems to guarantee this humble play's lasting relevance.