Tartuffe, RSC Swan, 5*****: Rod Dungate

Stratford Upon Avon

Tartuffe: Moliere, in a new version by Anil Gupta and Richard Pinto


RSC, The Swan

Runs 2h 35m, one interval. Till 23 February 2019




Review: Rod Dungate, 15 October 2018

Moliere Lives: OK!

What a glorious updating or revisioning of Moliere’s play this is. Let’s let the elephant out of the room – it’s often the case that we go to see Moliere’s plays in the knowledge that they’re funny (books tell us so) but that, in reality, with heavy-handed comedy acting they have all the humour of a lead balloon falling on your head.

Not so, by a million miles, this production. The central family are transported from 17 Century France to 21 Century UK – they are the Pervaiaz family in Birmingham – Pakistani Muslims, real Muslims as the father insists. Into the family Tartuffe is invited, Mr Pervaiz has found this righteous man at the local Small Heath Mosque. (Or indeed, as is more likely, Tartuffe has found Pervaiz.) Mr Pervaiz is convinced his family are becoming too Westernised and he wants them to rediscover their roots.

Within this context Moliere’s set-up becomes totally believable. There is an ever-present sense of the gnashing teeth of Moliere’s satire. This is dangerous, edgy stuff. Anil Gupta and Richard Pinto have created a version of the play that is as excruciatingly painful as it is exhilaratingly funny. And the bonus . . . Real Birmingham accents in the acting-space. It doesn’t get much b better than this.

Not just the accents of course. The acting space is full of gorgeous characters. With huge warmth they welcome us into their chaos; we live with them through their difficulties so that we understand them. We laugh whole-heartedlyn but never at them, always alongside them. Their foolishness is our foolishness.

Driving the family to despair is Simon Nagra as Mr Pervaiz, expansive and vulnerable. Running the roost, if not exactly ruling it, is the deliciously comedic Prevails cleaner, Bosnian Muslim, Darina – Michelle Bonnard. And at the centre, each word carefully enunciated lest he put a word wrong and blow his subterfuge is Asif Khan as Tartuffe.

Iqbal Khan, who directs, chooses a leisurely pace. Nothing is forced and the humour, the pain, the biting satire all emerge naturally.

This is masterful, innovative and a very great treat.

Waqaas: Salman Akhtar

Damee Pervaiz: Rai Bajaj

Amira Pervaiz: Sasha Behar

Darina: Michelle Bonnard

Zairab: Shamia Chalabi

Khalil: James Clyde

Marian Pervaiz: Zainab Hasan

Tahir Raufiq Arsuf (Tartuffe): Asif Khan

PC Raj Kumar: Naveed Khan

Imran Peryaiz: Simon Nagra

PC Tom Parry: Sam Pay

Usman: Riad Richie

Detective Chief Inspector Sarah Wells: Vivienne Smith

Pippa: Yasmin Taheri

Dadina Pervaiz: Amina Zia


Director: Iqbal Khan

Designer: Bretta Gerecke

Lighting: Richard Howell

Composer / Music Director: Sarah Sayeed

Sound: Jeremy Dunn

Movement: Shelly Maxwell


Production Photo: Topher McGrillis (c) RSC



(Credits will follow)

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