Birmingham Rep Theatre
Runs: 2h, one interval, till 16 11 13
Review: Alexander Ray Edser
Dusted off to duff us up.
TARTUFFE marks Roxana Silbert’s real debut production at the Birmingham Rep. It’s bold, brash, highly energised, and has a strong sense of style. Although there may be differences of opinion about its entire success, such differences will be on matters of personal taste; what cannot be disputed is that Silbert has entered with a bang and not with a whimper. Good for her, good for Birmingham.
Moliere’s play has been vigorously updated – from a translation by Chris Campbell. Liz Ascroft’s witty designs hint at elegance, while the acting style and performed script have a roughness that has an improvisatorial quality about it. There’s a feeling of pantomime, with local references and contemporary political jokes.
The rumbustious comedy makes immediate links with us in the audience; against this, though, I can’t help wondering if the dagger sharpness of the play is a little blunted. The presentation of social and religious hypocrisy is still there, but feels a bit comfortable
The production is played at a cracking pace with some great larger than life, stylised acting from most of the cast. This enables a delightful (and meaningful) contrast with both Paul Hunter – a rather endearingly foolish Orgon – and Mark Williams – a cringingly humble Tartuffe. .
This is a very strong ensemble production. Ayesha Antoine’s Dorine is marvellous – her whole body is deliciously engaged in both the verbal and physical comedy. Ashley Kumar’s Damis is much to be admired for both style and vitality. And Janice Connolly firmly makes her comedic mark in the long opening, scene-setting speech with consummate ease – though I’m not certain the dog adds much.
Silbert orchestrates this mad world with wit. A bold choice, and proves that the classics still work and are far from being dusty museum pieces.
Ayesha Antoine: Dorine
Sian Brooke: Elmire
Janice Connolly: Mrs Pernelle
Calum Finlay: Valere
Dinita Gohil: Marianne
Paul Hunter: Orgon
Martin Hyder: Cleante
Ashley Kumar: Damis
Roderick Smith: Officer
Mark Williams: Tartuffe
Director: Roxana Silbert
Translator: Chris Campbell
Designer: Liz Ascroft
Lighting Designer: Chahine Yavroyan
Sound Designer: Ben & Max Ringham
Assistant Director: John Haidar
Design Assistant: Tom Malyon