Banned after its first performance, Moliere’s Tartuffe worried the Catholic church. They thought people wouldn’t be able to differentiate between the faux devotion of the play’s titular character and the genuine piety of the truly faithful. Moliere was, indeed, no fan of the church, nor they of him, so it is tempting to see the play as a bit of a grenade against the hypocrisy of religion in general, rather than one man’s self-interested exploitation of faith.
Set in a Muslim family in modern Birmingham, this witty adaptation by Anil Gupta & Richard Pinto immediately deflects any potential reading of the play as a critique of Islam itself by establishing the character of Darina, the household’s thoroughly unconventional Bosnian Muslim cleaner who sees things very clearly and acts as a plain speaking bridge between the drama and the audience. Olga Fedori gives a feisty performance in the role and lands more than her fair share of the show’s many laugh-out-loud moments with assurance and aplomb.
Originally conceived at the RSC, in this transition to the city streets of Birmingham, the show seems to have grown extra teeth. The satire is sharp, skewers a breath-taking range of our contemporary foibles, and pulls no punches when it comes to the treatment of women in more traditional communities.
Two exchanges about the necessity for the hijab: one between Tartuffe and Darina where it argues for the wearing of the hijab; the second between Tartuffe and Amira, the wife he seeks to seduce, where he uses Darina’s arguments to argue the opposite point of view . These dialogues nicely highlight the follies underpinning this issue.
The production whips along at a lively pace, driven by energetic performances from a polished and professional cast.
Natalia Campbell as Amira gives a persuasive characterisation of a woman who finds more strength the more she is assailed by Tartuffe’s unwelcome advances. Simon Nagra displays impeccable timing as her absurd husband. Asif Khan is convincingly loathsome as Tartuffe. His ridiculously mannered delivery is a source of constant comic delight.
Director, Iqbal Khan shapes the proceedings very nicely and brings the whole thing to a deliriously frenzied climax. The Deus Ex Machina ending, which can seem a bit contrived in Moliere’s original, works well in the modern context because it touches on some very real contemporary concerns.
This is a fresh and vibrant a piece of theatre which brings Moliere’s classic text triumphantly up to date. A most enjoyable and engaging night at the theatre: do go see.
Salman Akhtar – Damee Pervaiz
Siddiqua Akhtar – Dadimaa Pervaiz
Anshula Bain – Mariam Perviaz
Natalia Campbell – Amira
Olga Fedori – Darina
Asif Khan – Tartuffe
Qasim Mahmood – Waqass
Simon Nagra – Imran Pervais
Riad Richie – Usman
Paige Round – DCI Sarah Wells and Pippa
Roderick Smith – Khalil
Director – Iqbal Khan
Designer – Bretta Gerecke
Lighting Designer – Richard Howell
Sound Designer – Jeremy Dunn
Composer – Sarah Sayeed
Adaptation written by Anil Gupta & Richard Pinto