by Molière new version by David Johnston.
Belgrade Theatre To 13 February 2010.
Mon-Sat 7.45pm Mat 10, 13 Feb 2.30pm.
Runs 2hr 30min One interval.
TICKETS: 024 7655 3055.
Review: Jan Pick 2 February.
Glimpses of gold.
A new version of The Miser romps into the Belgrade Theatre’s main house at the start of the new season at Coventry. Here, Harpingon, the domestic tyrant, hoarding his cash and bullying his household into excess frugality, is transformed into an exiled Scot – cue usual jokes about stinginess – living in Warwickshire – cue lower orders’ Brummie accents.
In his new version of the play David Johnston takes the opportunity to spice up the original with topical digs at the banking system and the various scams and legal entanglements the unwary borrower can become enmeshed in, inviting the audience to share the amazement at the ludicrous idea of wealth being anything other than cash in hand – or, as in Harpingon’s case, buried in various secret hiding places.
Libby Watson’s set beautifully complements the story, showing the run down interior of a formerly fine house, now shabby and becoming derelict through neglect.
Whereas Molière transcends the forms of Commedia dell ’arte to add complexity and darker tones to his work, Johnston has removed those layers, presenting us with a simpler and oddly more innocent play. Where Molière explores the more frightening side of obsession, here the potential tragedy of The Miser tends to dissipate into broad comedy more reminiscent of pantomime, with lots of double entendre and low wit to entertain us.
Andy Gray gave a sterling performance as the miser, Harpingon, matched only by Lin Blakley’s sparky, conniving Margarita. Great fun is had with the various confusions arising from Harpingon’s decision to marry his son, Tristram’s, sweetheart, with engaging performances from Keith Faulkner and Rachel Donovan as the unhappy lovers.
Equally engaging, Lily Bevan drifts gracefully round the set as the Miser’s daughter Eloise, in love with his servant Alexander – a good performance from Kenneth Harvey – really a gentleman but in disguise. Add to the pot some hilarious goings-on in the lower orders, and a sublimely ridiculous ending, and the ingredients are there for a most enjoyable evening, which may lack the complexity of the original, but is still good fun.
Harpingon: Andy Gray.
Alexander: Kenneth Harvey.
Eloise: Lily Bevan.
Tristram: Keith Faulkner.
Marianne: Rachel Donovan.
Margarita: Lin Blakley.
Jack: Robert Wilkinson.
Quimph: Will Tacey.
Berrylucre/Magistrate: Andy Hockley.
Carlisle: Martyn James.
Musician: Helen Bennett.
Director: Hamish Glen.
Designer/Costume: Libby Watson.
Lighting: Mark Jonathan.