A WOLF IN SNAKESKIN SHOES (OR THE GOSPEL OF TARTUFFE)
by Marcus Gardley
Tricycle Theatre 269 Kilburn High Road NW6 7JR To 14 November 2015.
Mon-Sat 7.30pm Mat Wed 2pm Sat 3pm.
Audio-described 5 Nov (+ Touch Tour 6pm).
Captioned 10 Nov.
Runs: 2hr One interval.
TICKETS 020 7328 1000.
Review: Carole Woddis 15 October.
An achievement, despite imperfections.
In comedy, particularly one in rhyming couplets, it’s important to hear the words – something Indhu Rubasingham’s otherwise lively production doesn’t always provide.
A shame, because Marcus Gardley’s southern states version of Moliere’s Tartuffe has much going for it: fantastic singing of spirituals, occasionally lively verbal play and a loyalty to Moliere’s satirical intention exposing the hypocrisy of religious piety that produces the enjoyably robust protagonist Apostole Toof, southern preacher and miracle-worker.
In Moliere’s original, Tartuffe infiltrates a household, causing havoc to wife, daughter and son by deluding the head of the household, Orgon with his pious beliefs. Gardley’s gullible equivalent is Organdy, a multi-millionaire described by Toof as “the all in one fried-chicken-fat-shack, check cashing, liquor store and funeral parlor tycoon.”
Toof, down on his luck with the church he set up with his wife, First Lady (the redoubtable and wonderful Sharon D Clarke) himself needs a miracle, which arrives in the shape of Orlandy’s mother, asking for help to save her billionaire son, dying of “cancer of the heart.”
The ensuing mayhem in the Organdy household shows Gardley pilloring his own and other forms of gullibility such as false trails of identity that send African-Americans searching back to their roots (his daughter, aptly named Africa) and macho chauvinism (a gay son who wants to be an air stewardess).
But overwhelmingly it is aimed at his own bible-thumping, rapacious preachers deluding their flocks with false claims of health miracles. Organdy believes himself “healed” by Toof’s laying-on of hands, a ploy the preacher also uses on Gumper, the gay son, to heal him of his “abomination.”
Rubasingham’s production is rich with larger-than-life performances – there’s a lovely scene in which Adjoa Andoh’s voluptuous Peaches (Organdy’s `fiancée) confronts the First Lady with Toof’s sexual misdemeanours, begging her to come and retrieve him, only for the First Lady to say, “take him.”
Best of all is Gardley’s secular denunciation, given full-throated voice by Lucian Msamati’s Toof in his final speech, a denial of the existence of God in the face of recent racial violence and murders that moves and shatters despite Toof’s undeniable hubris.
Peaches: Adjoa Andoh.
Africa: Ayesha Antoine.
Dorita/Maxine: Michelle Bonnard.
First Lady: Sharon D. Clarke.
Organdy: Wil Johnson.
Apostle Toof: Lucian Msamati.
Gumper: Karl Queensborough.
Mother Organdy: Angela Wynter.
Director: Indhu Rubasingham.
Designer: Tom Piper.
Lighting: Paul Anderson.
Sound : David McSeveney.
Composers: Ben and Max Ringham.
Musical Arrangers: Nigel Lilley, Ben and Max Ringham.
Musical Director: Nigel Lilley.
Choreographer/Movement Director: Coal Messam.
Voice/Dialect coach: Richard Ryder.
Fight Director: Ruth Cooper-Brown of RC-Annie Ltd.
Assistant Director: Jennifer Bakst.
World premiere of A Wolf in Snakeskin Shoes at the Tricycle Theatre London 8 October 2015.