TARTUFFE by Moliere
adapted by Paul Webster
269 West Ferry Road, London E14 3RS to 25 October 2014
Tues – Sat 7.30 pm
Runs 1hr 40 mins No interval; to 25 10 14
TICKETS: 0207 515 7798
Review: William Russell 16 October
Double crossing in the deep South is a delight
Paul Webster’s version of Moliere’s famous comedy about hypocrisy and religious duplicity in which the fraudster Tartuffe cheats Orgon and his family out of house and home has been re-set in New Orleans in 1929, a place where the wrought iron screens are frightfully overwrought.
Orgon and his family run a speakeasy, Tartuffe is the evangelist fraudster who moves in on them. It is very slick, funny and works brilliantly in a really quite scintillating staging by director Christ Lawson.
The evening’s success is in part due to terrific performances from John Fagan as Tartuffe, bald pate gleaming with sweat, as he lies his way through life, and Tom Cornish, all twitches, tension and sudden rages, as the foolish Orgon, but they shine against a strong supporting cast. Norma Butikofer as Orgon’s wife Elmire does a lovely line as a woman tempted, but not quite, by Tartuffe and Madeleine Leslay is delightful as the daughter faced with having to marry him.
The speakeasy setting and change of period works well and also allows for some pleasant period tunes – there is a pianist and grand piano – although I have some reservations about Lawson’s decision to have the cast chat up the audience before-hand and get them to join in singing a gospel song. It slows things down and like all such audience participation ploys is slightly embarrassing.
But once the play gets under way and Tartuffe and Orgon embark on their scenes together and apart things fizz along nicely. The Space, a former church, has slightly tricky acoustics which proved a problem for some of the cast to start with, but again things got better as the play went on.
It proved well worth the plunge into the depths of Canary Wharf, a place infested with today’s Tartuffes.
Damis: Benjamin Adnams
Officer: Mauricio Brandes
Madame Pernelle: Diana Brooks
Elmire: Norma Butikofer
Valere: Damian Cooper
Orgon: Tom Cornish
Tartuffe: John Fagan
Mariane: Madeleine Leslay
Dorine: Philippa Tatham
Cleante: Brian Tynan
Loyal: Tom Wharnsby
Director: Chris Lawson
Assistant Director: Gavin Dent
Sound Designer: Keri Danielle Chesser
Musical Director/Composer: Odinn Hilmarsson
Lighting Designer: Andy Straw