Tupperware: it’s robust, it’s light, it seals, it’s stylish and it’s modern. Vive la revolution! How to be a Modern Marvel® is Mariette Navarro’s play about the fad for plastic that swept over France in the 1960’s. However, as Navarro astutely suggests, it was not the Tupperware that women were buying but modernity itself.
Having found its home in the beautiful Institut Français d'Ecosse in New Town, the play is performed in a light-strewn room that has the audience up close and personal with a small cast of three. Indeed, the audience is obliged to engage with these women as they sell a new lifestyle with passion and panache. At times, this felt slightly strained and unnatural as I was robbed of my right to sit in dark anonymity. However, for the most part it was an interesting way of being dragged into their world. In addition, the costumes were an understated but highly effective means of transporting us backwards in time and the production did a fantastic job of engaging us on an aesthetic level.
However, despite some brilliant moments of tight and challenging dialogue, the script suffered from an absence of plot and I felt myself looking more than listening. Indeed, the play works as a very lovely-looking sales pitch and a smooth one at that. However, considering the ample room for a very human perspective on the question of modern womanhood, this play was at times as plasticky as the product that inspired it. Indeed, the performances were so polished that they verged on robotic and while the impeccable routine was at times rather captivating, I left wishing that their fixed grins could have faltered if even for a second.
Though Navarro’s script implicitly suggested the vacuous reality of the picket-fence dream, it ultimately wasted a golden opportunity for subversion. How to be a Modern Marvel® is not an easy hour in the theatre, but for anyone who relishes a challenge and enjoys a good time-warp, this play is definitely worth a look.