Tartuffe

Mon 15th – Sat 20th August 2016

reviews

Alice Harper

at 10:46 on 16th Aug 2016

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This Reading University production of Moliere’s classic is very well acted, and gives its audience a lot to enjoy. As someone who is unfamiliar with the plot of the original play, I didn't find this an obstacle to understanding or enjoying the show. At the very beginning the relationships and motives of the characters are a little confusing, but this becomes clearer as the story progresses. The play includes several colourful characters, and these are cast well to make the best use of different acting styles and generate comedy.

Tartuffe, the titular rogue himself, is played by Oliver Dickinson as a delightfully distasteful and wonderfully camp, scheming villain. Gabriel Burns’ Orgon is perfectly ridiculous in his blind adoration for Tartuffe while Elmire, played by Megan Blair, is the understandably exasperated wife who takes matters into her own hands. However, the stand out comic performance, for me, comes from Tess Agus as Dorine the maid. She clearly has some of the best lines to begin with, but she also pitches the level of sass and wit perfectly, and her knowing glances to the crowd add an extra element of fun to her character.

The interactions between characters are both believable and comical, particularly in Elmire and Tartuffe’s scenes together. Elmire, the architect of the plan to expose Tartuffe, switches comically between exaggerated false desire and revulsion, and makes the audience feel involved with frequent asides. The scene between Dorine, the whiny Mariane and her fiancé Valere is also very funny, and makes good use of physical comedy to expand on the dialogue. Many of the laughs throughout are generated by the actors’ facial expressions and body language, rather than the words themselves.

The production is visually impressive, with colourful props and costumes. The set, while being fairly simple, is used well for comedic effect. Moreover, the costumes have clearly been chosen thoughtfully, to reflect the characters wearing them. The songs used to transition between scenes add to the sixties vibe, but other than the costumes and music there is little to suggest that the adaptation is set ‘at the height of the sex, drugs and rock n roll era’. For the most part, it just feels as though the original play is being performed in unusual costumes with sixties music, not that this detracts from the overall enjoyment of the show.

This version of 'Tartuffe' is fun, slick and has the audience laughing throughout. It is accessible to those who have not read Moliere’s text, while remaining true to the original story for those already familiar.

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Ellie Bartram

at 15:17 on 16th Aug 2016

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Reading University Drama Society’s adaption of Moliere’s complex classic ,'Tartuffe', strikes an impressive balance between classic and contemporary in its exploration of religious hypocrisy ‘in the height of the sex, drugs and rock’n’roll era’. The production delves into timeless themes of scheming, deceit and betrayal as Tartuffe, the master of disguise, befriends Orgon whilst attempting to marry his daughter, woo his wife and get his hands on his estate. What follows is a hilarious retelling of a complex classic, where the depths of its tragedy and brunt of its comedy are made easily accessible to those unfamiliar with the original play. Director Josh Clarke provides a great introduction to Molière’s classic.

Most notable about the performance is its energetic pace and atmosphere on stage: the actors collaborate well together and create a captivating family dynamic. Family housemaid Dorine (played by Tess Agus) consistently delivers jokes that are well received by the audience whilst facial expressions and mannerisms from Mariane (played by Lottie Watts) are highly entertaining.

The use of physical theatre space is likewise engaging; a minimal amount of props and the small stage space are used creatively for hilarious comedic effect. Scenes flow around the centrepiece dining table and often into the audience, as actors frequently include front row audience members in their jokes.

The show is at its most powerful during moments of music. For me, this is by far the production’s biggest strength: 'Tartuffe' is greatly effective in its integration of set, sound and costume. The coupling of contemporary music and costumes with a classical script works surprisingly well, and is directed with skill.

However, it may be said that the play’s transition to the contemporary stage suffers slightly and feels almost rushed at the end. I would have liked to have seen a deeper plot development or a more contemporary adaption of events towards the ending. Having said that, the constancy of 'Tartuffe'’s creatively comedic jokes, music and fashion is strong throughout and I am thoroughly entertained at all points.

The line, "I have so much more to say!", repeatedly delivered by Orgon’s son Damis (played by Huw Smallwood) lingers with me as the production ends. 'Tartuffe' successfully offers a refreshing hour of comedy and entertainment, but I leave the theatre wanting to see and hear more.

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