For a play named after a book that celebrates the art of sexual conquest, Little Black Book contains very little sex. None, in fact – but that’s kind of the point in this French two-hander by Jean-Claude Carrière, translated into English by Solvene Tiffou.
About the quickly fatiguing reality of fling-to-fling culture, this play cleverly employs a few tricks to get heard. Firstly, in the setting. Jean-Jacques’ dull and bleach-white flat – plush but characterless – is the only space our characters ever inhabit. It’s plainness is a mockery of singledom and financial success. As is Jean-Jacques: career-defined, brazen, pompish yet unaware. He’s the perfect yuppie. But far from unlikable; this male lead chases quick carnal desire and risks long-term dissatisfaction.
Enter Jenny Rainsford’s well-measured Suzanne, who rocks up and suggests this loner tries love.
She isn’t without fault. Fascinated by doing nothing yet on some level a schemer, it’s initially hard to tell if she’s running away or toward something. As these two pivot at every angle, Little Black Book can be relished as a juicy ripping down of the barriers that coat male and female tendencies.
This translation, and the prior text, suit now as it would have last Century, as it will the next – full of witty nods to sexual inclination and examples of the pitfalls, delights and badly measured decisions that surround attraction, Little Black Book is a fast-moving stomper about the act of being stitched up by love.