Moliere’s 17th century play, which was reviled by the church as sacrilegious and banned from public performance by Louis X1V, has been newly translated by Ranjit Bolt, and what a delightful and witty play it is.
The story concerns the religious hypocrite Tartuffe, who under the guise of piety sets out to destroy the ordered household of the religiously inclined and prosperous merchant Organ, by attempting to marry his daughter, seduce his wife and cheat him out of his home.
I was completely hooked within seconds of the curtain rising when Madame Pernelle, Orgon’s matriarchal mother, played brilliantly by Margaret Tyzack, quickly cowers her family with her sharp tongue and sense of moral outrage. I was also captivated within the first few minutes of the pay by Dorine, a maid played by Debra Gillett who riles off the witty rhythmic script with exceptional timing and delivery. Both these actors overshadow Martin Clunes who plays Tartuffe, but nevertheless, I loved his performance. He is more known for his TV ‘jack-the-lad’ character in ‘Men Behaving Badly’, however he completely throws off this trait and brings a malevolent odious portrayal to Tartuffe. This works perfectly for the plot, as Tartuffe has no redeeming features, giving the play darkness amongst its humour. There is also a satisfying performance by David Threlfall, as the helpless naïve Orgon.
The charming set by Ashley Martin-Davis consists of massive frescos with florescent lighting spelling out poignant words and phrases describing religious hypocrisy, which sets the mood for the play. It also uses a rotating stage floor that allows swift and smooth scene changes from the dining area, lounge and bedroom.
The notices from the popular press are generally good: CHARLES SPENCER for THE DAILY TELEGRAPH says, "Many have staged Molière with more depth than Posner. Few have made him more enjoyable." NICHOLAS DE JONGH for THE EVENING STANDARD says, "A tame affair that wavers between farce and comedy." PAUL TAYLOR for THE INDEPENDENT says, "Clunes is terrifically funny in the title role...Posner's production homes in, more intelligently than any version I've seen before.....heartily recommended." CLAIRE ALLFREE for THE METRO says, "The production's Slaptick comedy, is continually rich." JOHN PETER for THE SUNDAY TIMES says, "Martin Clunes gives one of the great Moliere performances.... Lindsay Posner's production is one of the best of any Moliere play I've seen."
Although, the ending is a bit of a cop out, it is still a sharp and funny play that is a must see!!
Links to full reviews from newspapers...