La Seine is one of the strangest plays ever written. Its opening act suggests a wholly standard domestic drama: Raoul suddenly decides to leave his wife and child for his mistress Jeanne, whom he has rescued from life on the streets. The enormous second act, almost five thousand lines long, presents an evening spent by the couple at the Moulin Rouge. They are, however, by no means its sole concern; Roussel introduces character after character, and the act unfolds as a seemingly endless series of new people, new conversations, new stories, from grisly murders to mild flirtations, from aesthetic theories to unsettling dreams. In all, the play offers over four hundred speaking parts and would take the best part of a day to perform.
Mark Ford on a play of Raymond Roussel’s