I admit it, I’m excited, and it has nothing to do with the high calorie and glucose treats I shamelessly consumed. I just sat in on one of the early rehearsals for Tartuffe, this term’s fresh taste of Molière, after the excellent, rip-roarious Hypochondriac of Michaelmas. And I was astonished: less than one week in and the lines are seemingly perfect (they know them so well they’re saying each other’s), so much so the characterisation has been cranked up to loud comedy and silly voices abound.
I love the bustle and banter of a rehearsal room, the uncertainties – ‘is this meant to be a chair or a table in this scene?’ (It was standing in for a chaise longue, if I remember correctly) – the directors’ requests for different emotional extremes, the corpsing. You can really tell when an ensemble gel well together: they’re focused but they’re having a good time too. It’s a good sign.
‘Release the inner creep that’s dying to come out’, jokes a co-director. Don’t worry folks, this Tartuffe does. He’s terrifyingly virile. In translator Roger McGough’s words: the lovers play ‘a two-headed pantomime on a tightwire’, the hot-headed son roars like an ‘Ancient Greek’ and ‘heavens to betsy, this ‘reverie’ is just too ‘brèverie’!
Yes, with comically bad rhymes and cheeky French puns in tow, McGough is the eccentric uncle I never had, and he’s just the man to take Molière by the tail and swing him round. And this warm and friendly cast are the ones to catch him and give him the birthday bumps (it is the 350th anniversary of the play, after all). Having seen Tartuffe at the Birmingham Rep this year, with an impressive cast including one Mark Williams (better known to us as Mr Weasley), I was prepared to be underwhelmed by the acting, though I had full confidence in McGough’s balmy genius for the translation. It’s a big claim but I will make it, Tommy Simon’s Tartuffe stands up to Williams’s. Please, Harry Potter fans, no hate mail. The rest of the cast are not too shabby either. If by ‘not too shabby’ I mean really very good indeed.
Now, because I love McGough and I’m feeling a little inspired, I’ve prepared a few modest lines to send us out:
Molière scholars you’re in good hands,
Everyone else, you’ll be Molière fans.
So come along and enjoy this treat,
Your bum’s just longing for a seat.
Hey, look at me I can write like McGough.
Who am I kidding, I can’t write for sh… cough.
Performances of Tartuffe will take place in 3rd week (4-8th February) at Corpus Christi College.
PHOTO/ Pierre Brissart (Wikimedia Commons)