Tartuffe – Review

The Guildburys Theatre Company
reviewed by Jenni Balow

To learn the truth about Tartuffe
Go to the theatre without a roof
To see this play by Moliere
With witty rhymes in the open air.
There! The whole of this 17th century classic comedy has been scripted in rhyming couplets by one of Britain’s best loved modern poets, Roger McGough, in a smooth and pacey production that is a sheer delight.

This adaptation, directed by Ian Nichols, is as clear-cut as the crisp cotton, lace and stripes worn by the all-knowing servants in the opulent Parisian home of Orgon (Andrew Donovan), where pious fraudster Tartuffe (Steve Nankervis), has managed to get his feet firmly under the table of the master of the house.

Speculation over the next move by Tartuffe, who has his sights set on both Orgon’s daughter, the pretty Mariane (Amie Felton) – and her mother (Laura Sheppard) – fills the first 45 minutes of the play before the “rapscallion on the make” finally makes his official entrance.

He resists the temptation to actually twirl his moustache, but he’s been sussed by the cheeky maid Dorine (Kathryn Attwood), Mariane’s suitor Valere (Conor Turley), the lisping son of the family Damis, (Eddie Woolrich) and Cleante (Phill Griffith) who view him as “a pantomime horse on a tighrope wire” as he beguiles the women of the house, including grandmama Mme Pernelle (Diane Nichols).

Despite their collective warnings, the conniving Tartuffe succeeds in having Damis disinherited and the bailiff, the misnamed Loyal (Graham Russell-Price) arrives to take possession of the house, an “eviction ordinaire”, as Orgon hurls his wig to the floor in increasing Basil Fawlty-esque frustration.

The classical set with its pediments and porticos beautifully convey the architecture of a French mansion, and the stylish and immaculate hand made costumes designed by Diane Nichols and sewn by members of the Surrey based amateur company, take us back to 1664, when the play was written, and initially banned by the Roman Catholic Church for its irreverence.

It has been translated and adapted many times, but scouser Roger McGough gave it an extra funny, contemporary slant when he was asked to re-write the play for the Capital of Culture festival in Liverpool five years ago.

And so, the Guildburys players French translation,
Richly deserves a standing ovation!