Set in Hong Kong and China at the turn of the 20th century, against the backdrop of the age of Empire and the first whispers of revolt and decolonisation, Break of Noon follows the inner journeys of four people who together depict all the multifaceted faces of Love.
Ysé is at the centre of a romantic entanglement with three men: De Ciz, her unstable husband who is obsessed with business and will do anything to open new trade markets in the East; Mesa, devoted to his Catholic faith, but who was rejected for the priesthood and feels abandoned by God; and Amalric, a fortune-seeking explorer, and Ysé’s old flame, who seems to be pushing Ysé into other men's arms, whilst still hoping she will return to him one day…
Written in 1905, Break of Noon is a semi-autobiographical romance, based on Paul Claudel’s own real love -affair with a married woman, and his experiences as French consul in China. A modern French classic, it is a unique poetic and symbolist manifesto, in verse, on the human frailty of ambivalence and the conflicts and contradictions between physical love and spiritual faith.
Break of Noon was banned from the stage by Claudel himself for forty three years (following a recommendation from his priest during confession), until his friend, famous actor and director Jean-Louis Barrault, after he'd successfully created the epic Soulier de Satin, convinced him to allow him to produce the play in 1948. Barrault’s production, in French, for the famous Renaud-Barrault Company was seen in London in 1951. It was revived at the Comédie Francaise as recently as 2007.
Elizabeth Boag anchors the narrative as the temptress Ysé, but she never quite captures the erotic charge the part needs