Le Voyageur sans bagage

Last updated

Le Voyageur sans bagage (The Traveller Without Luggage) is a 1937 play in five scenes by Jean Anouilh. Incidental music for the original production was written by Darius Milhaud and for the play's first Paris revivals by Francis Poulenc. [1]



Gaston, a veteran of World War I, suffers from amnesia and has spent the last 18 years in a hospital trying to regain his memories. Although he's claimed as a son by various families, a rich Duchess believes the true family Gaston belongs to is the Renauds. Gaston travels to the Renauds' estate alongside his lawyer, Huspar. A docile character, Gaston discovers his former identity of Jacques Renaud: a cruel and violent young man who used to kill animals for sport. He learns that immediately prior to the war he pushed his best friend, Marcel, down a flight of stairs, breaking his back, shortly after seeing him kiss the maid Juliette, with whom Jacques had been intimate. Gaston has difficulty reconciling his current personality with that of his past. His brother's wife, Valentine (with whom he had an affair during adolescence), tells him about a tiny scar on his shoulder, sustained when Valentine attacked him with a hat pin in a fit of jealousy. Gaston sees this scar in a mirror but doesn't tell Valentine about it. Soon thereafter, numerous families arrive at the Renaud estate, searching for their lost loved one from the war. Gaston spots a young boy. This boy, who is the only surviving member of the Madensales, a family who died in a boating accident when he was an infant, is searching for his long-lost nephew who happens to be much older than himself. Gaston tells the young boy about the scar on his shoulder and fabricates a story about the scar belonging to the boy's long-lost nephew. Gaston leaves the Renauds to become a member of the boy's family, later writing a letter to Jacques' brother Georges, stating that their Jacques is dead and they need not search for him any longer.

Inspiration and reception

Inspired by the story of an amnesiac soldier, Anthelme Mangin, who was claimed by over a dozen families, [2] the play was first presented on 16 February 1937 and was Anouilh's first major hit with critics and audiences alike. According to biographer Edward Owen Marsh, the playwright enjoyed "his first financial success in the theatre, when perhaps the poorest theatre-director in Paris, Georges Pitoëff, produced what is generally considered to be one of Anouilh's finest plays, Le Voyageur sans bagage. This production put the seal on his reputation and marked him as one of the most interesting younger dramatists." [3]

The play first appeared in English as Identity Unknown in an adaptation by Alice Wagstaffe, presented at the Duke of York's Theatre, London on three consecutive Sundays in December 1937. [4] As The Traveller Without Luggage, the play was next presented in the UK at the Bristol Old Vic on 3 September 1951, in a translation by Lewis Galantière. [5] Subsequent translators of the play included the playwright John Whiting [6] and actress Lucienne Hill. [7]

Original productions

Paris – premiere – Théâtre des Mathurins, 16 February 1937 [8]

Directed by Georges Pitoëff

Bristol – UK postwar premiere, as The Traveller Without LuggageBristol Old Vic, 3 September 1951 [9]

Directed by Denis Carey Translated by Lewis Galantière

London – as Traveller Without LuggageArts Theatre, 29 January 1959 [10]

Directed by Peter Hall Translated by John Whiting

New York – premiere, as Traveller Without LuggageANTA Playhouse, 17 September 1964 [11]

Directed by Robert Lewis Translated by Lucienne Hill

Revivals and adaptations

Le Voyageur sans bagage was given its first Paris revival at the Théâtre de la Michodière on 1 April 1944, with Pierre Fresnay playing Gaston. [12] As director, Fresnay modelled the production on the original by the since-deceased Pitoëff, but Francis Poulenc was engaged to replace the original's incidental music, which had been composed by Darius Milhaud. This revival opened shortly after the premiere of a film version, also starring Fresnay and directed by Anouilh himself. [13]

Further Paris revivals followed at the Théâtre Montparnasse on 6 April 1950 (directed by André Barsacq, with the Poulenc score again and Michel Vitold as Gaston) and back at the play's original home, the Théâtre des Mathurins, on 15 September 1973, directed by Nicole Anouilh (the playwright's wife), with Daniel Ivernel and, later, Pierre Vaneck as Gaston. For this revival the Milhaud music was restored and Anouilh made some changes to the text, claiming that some of the original expressions were "franchement démodés" (frankly outmoded). [14]

In addition to the 1944 film version, the play has been adapted several times for television - in the UK (October 1959, February 1965), Australia (August 1961), Canada (January 1962), Spain (February 1964, February 1968), and France (September 2004, directed by Pierre Boutron). [15] The play has also been adapted for BBC Radio, first in March 1953 [16] and subsequently in June 1980. [17] A new stage adaptation by Anthony Weigh, transposed to 1950s America and titled Welcome Home, Captain Fox!, was produced at London's Donmar Warehouse in March 2016. [18]

In India, on Mumbai (Bombay) Doordarshan TV the play was directed in Marathi by celebrated Marathi director Chandrakant Kulkarni and performed by Bhakti Barve Inamdar, Tushar Dalvi (title role), Aardra Athalye (small boy), Prasad Athalye and others. The play's Marathi name was Ozyawina Pravashi.

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Jean Anouilh</span> French playwright

Jean Marie Lucien Pierre Anouilh was a French dramatist whose career spanned five decades. Though his work ranged from high drama to absurdist farce, Anouilh is best known for his 1944 play Antigone, an adaptation of Sophocles' classical drama, that was seen as an attack on Marshal Pétain's Vichy government. His plays are less experimental than those of his contemporaries, having clearly organized plot and eloquent dialogue. One of France's most prolific writers after World War II, much of Anouilh's work deals with themes of maintaining integrity in a world of moral compromise.

The Waltz of the Toreadors is a 1951 play by Jean Anouilh.

<i>Christophe Colomb</i> Opera by Darius Milhaud

Christophe Colomb is an opera in two parts by the French composer Darius Milhaud. The poet Paul Claudel wrote the libretto based on his own play about the life of Christopher Columbus, Le Livre de Christophe Colomb. The opera was first performed at the Staatsoper, Berlin, on 5 May 1930 in a German translation by Rudolph Stephan Hoffmann. Milhaud thoroughly revised the work and produced a second version around 1955. The opera is on a large scale and requires many resources for its staging. As in many of his other works, Milhaud employs polytonality in parts of the score.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Théâtre Hébertot</span> Theater in Paris, France

Théâtre Hébertot is a theatre at 78, boulevard des Batignolles, in the 17th arrondissement of Paris, France.

<i>Léocadia</i> 1940 play by Jean Anouilh

Léocadia is a play by Jean Anouilh that premiered at the Théâtre de la Michodière in Paris on 2 December 1940. It is one of Anouilh's Pièces roses, together with Humulus le muet (1932), Le Bal des voleurs (1938), and Le Rendez-vous de Senlis (1941). For the occasion, Francis Poulenc composed one of his most celebrated songs, "Les Chemins de l'amour", sung by Yvonne Printemps.

Y'avait un prisonnier is a play by French dramatist Jean Anouilh. It consists of three acts and was first performed at the Theatre of the Ambassador's in Paris in 1934.

Yvette Etiévant (1922–2003) was a French actress. She starred in Yves Robert's War of the Buttons in 1962.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Théâtre de Paris</span>

The Théâtre de Paris is a theatre located at 15, rue Blanche in the 9th arrondissement of Paris. It includes a second smaller venue, the Petit Théâtre de Paris.

Travelling Light or variations may refer to:

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Andrée Tainsy</span> Belgian actress

Andrée Micheline Ghislaine Tainsy was a Belgian actress. She worked with several notable actors like Philippe Noiret, Jean Louis Trintignant, Charlotte Rampling and famous directors like Claude Chabrol, Costas Gavras and François Ozon. Tainsy began her career with theater plays and her first film debut was in 1945, followed by over 80 different cinema and TV works as co-star. She worked until the day of her death.

Julien Bertheau was a French actor.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Gisèle Casadesus</span> French actress (1914–2017)

Gisèle Casadesus was a French actress, who appeared in numerous theatre and film productions. She was an honorary member of the Sociétaires of the Comédie-Française, Grand Officer of the Legion of Honor, Officer of the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres, and Grand-Croix of the National Order of Merit. In a career spanning more than 80 years, Casadesus appeared in more than a dozen films after turning 90.

<i>Traveling Light</i> (1944 film) 1944 film

Traveling Light is a 1944 French drama film directed by Jean Anouilh, starring Pierre Fresnay and Blanchette Brunoy. The narrative is set in 1931, when a man with amnesia tries to recover his memories from World War I, in order to find out what kind of man he really is. The film is based on Anouilh's 1937 play with the same title.

Albert Rieux was a French stage and film actor.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Théâtre des Mathurins</span>

The théâtre des Mathurins, also called Les Mathurins, is a Parisian theatre located 36, rue des Mathurins in the 8th arrondissement of Paris established in 1897.

Paulette Pax was a French actress, theatre director and scenographer.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Nina Myral</span> French actress

Nina Myral, stage name of Eugénie, Hortense Gruel, was a 20th-century French actress, dancer and singer.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Mercédès Brare</span> French actress

Mercédès Brare was a French actress active in film roles from the 1930s to the 1950s.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Théâtre de la Michodière</span> Theatre Building

The Théâtre de la Michodière is a theatre building and performing arts venue, located at 4 bis, rue de La Michodière in the 2nd arrondissement of Paris. Built by Auguste Bluysen in 1925 in Art Deco style, it has a tradition of showing boulevard theatre.

Alain Mottet was a French actor.


  1. Jean Anouilh, Le Voyageur sans bagage: Edition de Bernard Beugnot, Gallimard, Paris 2007
  2. Jean Yves Le Naour, Le Soldat inconnu vivant, Hachette Littérature, Paris 2002
  3. Edward Owen Marsh, Jean Anouilh: Poet of Pierrot and Pantaloon, WH Allen, London 1953
  4. "Production of Identity Unknown | Theatricalia".
  5. 'London Theatres: Bristol Premiere', The Stage 1 September 1951
  6. Jean Anouilh, translator: John Whiting, Traveller Without Luggage, Methuen, London 1959
  7. Jean Anouilh, translator: Lucienne Hill, Traveller Without Luggage, in Jean Anouilh: The Collected Plays Volume 1, Methuen, London 1966
  8. Jean Anouilh, Le Voyageur sans bagage: Edition de Bernard Beugnot, Gallimard, Paris 2007
  9. 'Bristol Premiere: The Traveller Without Luggage', The Stage 6 September 1951
  10. Jean Anouilh, translator: John Whiting, Traveller Without Luggage, Methuen, London 1959
  11. "Traveller Without Luggage – Broadway Play – Original | IBDB".
  12. "Programmes originaux de théâtre - Voyageur sans bagage de Jean ANOUILH - Théâtre de la Michodière 1944".
  13. "Le voyageur sans bagages". IMDb .
  14. Jean Anouilh, Le Voyageur sans bagage: Edition de Bernard Beugnot, Gallimard, Paris 2007
  15. "Jean Anouilh". IMDb .
  16. Radio Times # 1532, 20 March 1953
  17. Radio Times # 2954, 19 June 1980
  18. "The Stage". www.thestage.co.uk.