Tartuffe, by the famous French playwright and actor, Molière is a theatrical comedy written in the 17th Century.
Director, Roxana Silbert says in her welcome note this is a “wonderfully fresh, modern, funny and accessible translation” – and she is not wrong… a new translation (French to English), and Chris Campbell has done a great job!
Translator, Campbell’s decision not to include the rhyme that Molière wrote originally; was a wise one. Complexities to the English text which would have arisen from doing so; would have meant a very different play. Idiomatic English of the here and now is well phrased, and, at times, is colloquially delivered to the Birmingham audience (lots of Brum references and asides) –the applause received at the play’s end was rapturous in deep appreciation for that reason, and for everything else the production delivers, which, by the way, is much, and it goes like this:
Comedy centres on family feuding and the religious hypocrisy of one man, but, the main thing that needs to be addressed is whether or not Madame Pernelle (Janice Connolly) and her son, Orgon (Paul Hunter) should continue with their trust and the high regard that they have for Tartuffe; while everyone else is so suspicious of him.
Family members and their friends as well as hot-tempered servant, Dorine (Ayesha Antoine) work to expose Tartuffe for the scoundrel they believe him to be. One of the funniest scenes is when Orgon, at the suggestion of his wife, Elmire (Sian Brooke) hides under a table to eavesdrop on Tartuffe, in a ploy to expose him (literally). Eye wateringly funny is this scene and I think it is okay for me to reveal that when the penny finally drops about Tartuffe, Orgon runs around and around in circles in panic and distress; and, while doing so, Hunter displays fabulous comedy style physicality and energy.
I must mention too: the set. The facia of an ornate and classically French style house, inspired by a Rococo painting, with a sweeping staircase stage right, moving props, and a motion floor (disguised) means, once again, wonderful artistically visual work by designer, Liz Ascroft. Lighting is by Chahine Yavroyan and sound by Max and Ben Ringham.
The icing on the cake is, of course, the genius cast which also includes Calum Finlay (Valere), Martin Hyder (Cleante), Roderick Smith (Officer), Damis (Ashley Kumar) and Dinita Gohil (Mariane), and is headed by the all out prodigious, Mark Williams as Tartuffe.
Williams is so good. His performance is deliciously earthy and he wholly embraces the part. Cher Monsieur Williams, Vous êtes très amusant! Entertainment par excellence. A must see.
***** FIVE STARS
Note: Reviewer, Debra Hall, attended the press night showing of Tartuffe on Wednesday 6th November at The Rep (Birmingham Repertory Theatre) in an official capacity, on behalf of Remotegoat Stage. Repeat of this publication can be viewed here