Émile Zola was a leading figure in the school of naturalistic fiction in the Paris literary scene of the late nineteenth century. Thérèse Raquin, published in 1867, was his first major novel. Zola adapted it for the stage and it was first performed in 1873. The play is set in Paris from 1873 to 1875. The dingy apartment over Madame Raquin’s haberdashery shop in the Passage du Pont-Neuf, in a poor quarter of Paris sets the scene for this domestic tragedy.
Thérèse is stifled by a dreary, arranged marriage to her first cousin, the sickly Camille, and is watched over by her oppressive mother-in-law. She embarks on a reckless affair with her husband’s childhood friend, the idle Laurent.Their secretive relationship goes unnoticed but Thérèse and Laurent believe their affair will be discovered. Their frustration and passion drive them to a fatal decision. Thereafter they find themselves trapped in a waking nightmare of guilt and paranoia.
Paris audiences regarded the play as pornographic because of its uncompromising portrayal of Thérèse’s sexuality. However, Zola succeeded in sowing the seeds of theatrical realism and the play is regarded as a key manifesto of the French Naturalist movement.
Everyman Theatre will perform an adaptation by Nicholas Wright in the Chapter Theatre from November 28th to December 2nd.
Tickets. £12 and £10 from the box office, telephone 029 20304400 and at chapter.org