by Liz Lochhead – a translation of L’école des Femmes by Molière.
Royal Lyceum Theatre Grindlay Street EH3 9AX To 7 May 2011.
Tue-Sat 7.45pm Mat 30 April 2.30pm.
BSL Signed 27 April.
Captioned 30 April 2.30pm.
Runs 2hr One interval.
TICKETS: 0131 248 4848.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 20 April.
Elegant and witty comedy, translation and production.
There’s been some debate, amongst audience members, as to whether Hayden Griffin’s fine, full design for Liz Lochhead’s Scottish version of Molière’s School for Wives looks French or Scottish. The dark buildings either side, one leavened only with a necessary, and hardly obtrusive balcony, the town square and further buildings facing from behind, catch both countries at once, which is entirely right for Lochhead’s lively script.
While full of bravura flourishes – the modernisms (“Rocket science,” “You’ve had your third verbal warning,” – as master says to servant), the occasional swearing, witty rhymes: schadenfreude [pronounced ‘shaddenfroid’] with “annoyed”) – Lochhead’s translation never puts itself upfront, catching the caricature comedy of Arnolphe’s slow-witted servant couple (deliciously played by Kathryn Howden and Steven McNicoll, in performances that on TV would have them successfully type-cast for life).
And the character comedy of Arnolphe, played with pomposity and anxiety by Peter Forbes as the middle-aged man who’s secured, Country Wife-style, a simple rural girl as a compliant wife, and who – through the kind of background complexities Molière frequently deployed) – is regarded as an ally by young Horace in his attempts to elope with this young wife, Agnes.
Forbes’ Arnolphe is both right for the part, and a majestic Scottish variant upon his recent Pooter in Northampton’s Diary of a Nobody. It’s a fortunate pairing – like the Grossmith’s suburban ‘Nobody’ Forbes’ Arnolphe carries a sympathetic bonhomie alongside his more ridiculous aspects.
Innocent alike with her needlework or answering questions, Nicola Roy shows how honest naïvety can outmanoeuvre sophisticated manipulation. Mark Prendergast gives Horace an open, youthfully energetic enthusiasm that’s rightly affronted when he realises how his supposed friend has been tricking him, while both Lewis Howden and Crawford Logan as sensible men in middle-age offset Arnolphe’s foolish, and futile, marriage project.
Director Tony Cownie misses no comic trick in his production, mirroring Lochhead’s verbal exuberance with banging door and shutters, streetlamps being lit and extinguished (with the aid of bellows), a sedan-taxi for hire and newspaper deliveries. All good, often anachronistic, fun but touchingly bringing to life the reality of this urban place in this urbane comedy.
Arnolphe: Peter Forbes.
Agnes: Nicola Roy.
Georgette: Kathryn Howden.
Chrysalde: Lewis Howden.
Alain: Steven McNicoll.
Horace: Mark Prendergast.
Orante: Crawford Logan.
Director: Tony Cownie.
Designer/Costume: Hayden Griffin.
Lighting: John Harris.
Sound/Composer: Philip Pinsky.