translated by Kenneth McLeish
Jailbird is an early farce by Georges Feydeau. Tranlsator Kenneth McLeish writes that 'it was one item in a miscellaneous programme of monologues, comic songs and daft poems . . . The piece shows occasional apprentice touches: the inconsequentiality of some of the jokes, for example, climaxing in the very last line of all, suggests a group of students giggling together rather than a single-minded artist fully in control of his effects. But the themes of Feydeau's major works are all here, and the misunderstandings and dazzle of the dialogue show his mastery even at this early age.'
Jailbird takes place in the apartment of the singer Pépita who is struggling to ignore her cuckolded husband, Plumard, as she waits for the arrival of her admirer Taupinier. Into the mix comes the school-teacher Grumpard, posing pseudonymously as Lemercier, a debonair man-about-town, whose sole desire is to meet with the singer he admires from afar.
The lovers though mistake him for a murderer-at-large, also named Lemercier, and go to great lengths to protect themselves from the threat they imagine he poses.
Jailbird or Le Gibier de potence was first produced in 1894 by Le Cercle Volney, a semi-private theatre club, directed by Feydeau himself. He was only 21 at the time.