|Review The Hypocrite (Tartuffe). The Melbourne Theatre Company production of Justin Fleming's adaptation of The Hypocrite (Tartuffe) received excellent reviews.
The Age review said: "Double standards and bright lights equal high drama. Author: Martin Ball, Reviewer Date: 14/11/2008 Words: 431 Source: AGE Publication: The Age Section: Metro Page: 15
THE HYPOCRITE By Moliere, translated by Justin Fleming, Melbourne Theatre Company, Playhouse, Arts Centre, November 12. Until December 13. Running time: 150 minutes. www.mtc.com.au
IF YOU believe our major theatre companies, 2008 is the year of the hypocrite. It began with Malthouse Theatre's modernisation of Moliere's Tartuffe set in a glitzy Toorak world of swimming pools and sunglasses, and now MTC is presenting the same play in a timeless version that brilliantly highlights the central themes of hypocrisy and enlightenment. MTC's The Hypocrite is a great success in many ways, beginning with Justin Fleming's skilful and witty translation. Fleming brings a thoroughly modern idiom to the text, while largely retaining the rhyming couplets of the original French. It's a great achievement, intelligent and entertaining. Director Peter Evans has chosen his metaphors well, and makes sure no one can miss them. It begins with a pointed reference to light, as our gaze is directed to the 22 chandeliers hanging like swords of Damocles above the actors. It continues through the cardboard box of light bulbs that sits on stage, and it finishes in the glare shone at the audience's eyes when Tartuffe is finally undone. Evans takes the extra step of demanding the audience see itself in the show, firstly in the large mirror at the back of the stage, but also by opening the wings and exposing the structures of the set, and ultimately by making the audience itself responsible for Tartuffe's fate. The theme of light is, of course, undercut by the absence of enlightenment in the main character Orgon, wonderfully played by Garry McDonald. This is a role made for McDonald, and he doesn't put a foot wrong. Kym Gyngell is a self-effacing Tartuffe, one moment pious and ascetic, the next lascivious and greedy. His timing and delivery is terrific, especially in his seduction scene with Elmire, played coolly and professionally by Marina Prior. Nicholas Bell brings an assuredness to the complex language as Cleante, while Kerry Walker hams up the jokes as Madame Pernelle. Stephen Curtis' multi-era design facilitates some good farce with closets and trapdoors, as well as an exquisite encounter on the glass table. His bold colours code the characters effectively - pink for the girl, blue for the boy, black for Tartuffe and so on- including a magnificent lime frock coat for McDonald. There were a few hiccups on opening night, with actors tripping over each other's lines, and Gyngell fluffing a stage cue. There is, after all, an enormous amount of text, but it's a fine show, well acted and directed, with clear and consistent ideas." ----------
The review of The Melbourne Theatre Company production of Justin Fleming's adaptaion of The Hypocrite (Tartuffe) in the Sunday Herald Sun November 16, 2008 (Jane Howard) said "Devilishly Clever Farce, delicious, a night of vocal acrobatics and risque fun. The show struck a chord. Devilishly clever farce. The rhyming script echoes the original and is a considerable challenge for the actors. They succeed admirably. Recommended" --------------
The review of The Melbourne Theatre Company production of Justin Fleming's adaptaion of The Hypocrite (Tartuffe) in the Herald Sun November 14, 2008(Chris Boyd) said "Likeable, funny, clever, spectacular. Justin Fleming's translation owes a lot to Byron, with its long lines and crazy rhymes. Director Peter Evans revels in the cartoonery and buffoonery. So do the cast members - Immensely good fun."
Australian Stage Online
Review The Hypocrite (Tartuffe) translated by Justin Fleming.
Melbourne Theatre Company
Reviewer: Carol Middleton
"From the moment the audience lights were dimmed and we were introduced to the bizarrely dressed maid Dorine (Mandy McElhinney) going about her domestic duties with an insolent air, I knew we were in for a treat. Stephen Curtis’s set consisted of two pieces of period French furniture plus a cardboard box, a glass table and two plastic chairs, and his costumes approximated a seventeenth-century French style undercut by miniskirts, bouffon (and worse) hairdos and extraordinary shoes. Enter Madame Pernelle (Kerry Walker) in a voluminous blow-up dress with bag to match and the tone was set for the night. The pantomime was in town.
What a novel way to tart up a dusty seventeenth-century play, a favourite with Louis XIV. Not that it was necessary to vulgarise Tartuffe, Molière’s title for the play. Justin Fleming had already done a fabulous job of translating the original, capturing the earthy quality of the French with contemporary Australian slang and references. No mean feat, since the French play was written in rhyming couplets. Fleming, who was there to take a bow, kept many of the rhyming couplets but rearranged the rhyming order of other lines to suit the English language and the characters. The actors did a fine job of using these unusual rhythms of speech to enhance the comedy.
The play revolves around the character of a religious hypocrite Tartuffe (Kim Gyngell), who has wormed his way into the affluent home of Orgon (Garry McDonald). Orgon is blind to Tartuffe’s hypocrisy until the villain is finally unmasked. We are threatened with a tragic ending before a theatrical device switches the characters’ fortunes once again. The plot cannot be taken seriously, even if the moral issues are under serious scrutiny. Much of the play is taken up with diatribes by Orgon’s family, attempts to discredit the intruder and uphold their own moral code. Although the young Louis XIV gave it the thumbs up, it was banned for five years as an insult to the religious community.
Outstanding among the household members is McDonald, who blasts on to the stage with a tempestuous energy, sweeping the play along in a torrent of words. A consummate comedian, he uses his body and voice to underline key phrases and define his character. The director (Peter Evans) makes full use every actor’s talents for comedy, creating a cast of absurd caricatures, ranging from Orgon’s spoilt brats – the petulant daughter in pink Mariane (Sara Gleeson) and the barely contained emo son in orange Damis (Chris Ryan) – to the wildly imagined Flipote and jovial bearer of bad news Monsieur Loyal (both played with relish by James Wardlaw). Marina Prior is perfect as the alluring Elmire, Orgon’s wife, rising to a comic climax in the seduction scene. Most memorable, though, was her spontaneous response to what could have been a fatally early entry by Tartuffe. That brought the house down.
The exception to the cast of colourful caricatures is Tartuffe, who appears in black jeans and turtleneck, with greasy hair and black spectacles, a slimy toad incarnate. Gyngell is unwavering in maintaining this unsavoury character, showing not even a redeeming love of poetry in his rendition of the text. He takes his character description - a bum who has come in off the street and taken over the house - literally. This justifies the hatred he inspires in almost all around him, but perhaps a little more evidence of self-love, of love of his own hollow homilies, would have made him more interesting and done justice to Fleming’s and Molière’s words.
Another dimension was added to the play by the use of a musician/actor (Bert Labonte) behind a one-way mirror. His casual guitar and the playful musical score created a mood of light-heartedness and mockery. Labonte’s relaxed manner was that of a chorus or amused god commenting with irony on the action below.
This is a production that relies on boldness for its impact. Even the lighting (by Matt Scott) avoids the subtle and goes for the big and brassy. Strongly lit from the side as well as illuminated by overhead chandeliers, the impression is of opulence and brilliance, an ambience in which the reptilian Tartuffe cannot survive for long. Translated for the twenty-first century, The Hypocrite is pure entertainment and this production brings the MTC’s year to a resounding close. The company is going from strength to strength."