What an enjoyable evening! From the first notes of the overture to the final black out Moliere's The Misanthrope is a joy to watch. The Old Vic Theatre is a beautiful setting for any production, and being such an intimate venue seems to incorporate the audience from the very start.
The dictionary describes a misanthrope as a hater of humankind, and in his performance as Alceste, Simon Armstrong portrays this magnificently. He displays the selfishness and sheer egoism that the part requires and his character can never be overlooked on the stage. He is ably matched and supported by Dorothea Myer-Bennett as Célimene who portrays a wide range of emotions, and keeps everyone guessing until the end.
In fact all the cast seem to have got into the skins of their characters and are utterly believable. From the pomposity of Oronte played by Byron Mondahl and the quiet sensitivity of Eliante by Daisy Douglas; to the inebriated Clitandre and Acaste ably played by Piers Wehner and Matt Barber; to the bitchy although rather poignant Arsinoé by Lucy Black. Philip Buck as Philinte makes an excellent foil to the over-dramatic Alceste, and the audience delight in the final outcome.
Although first written in 1666, this version of the play, by Tony Harrison never feels dated in any way – it is pacy, funny, topical and slightly cruel in places. The rhyming couplets never intrude, or feel out of place, or forced in anyway, and the audience are involved from the very start. You cannot wait to find out which couples will eventually end up together.
The set designed by Tom Rogers is simple but extremely effective and the use made of the lighting designed by Tim Streader – especially as dawn breaks - is subtle but superbly done.
Andrew Hilton’s direction of the play enable the scenes to flow seamlessly. The pace is always fast, but you get the impression that each individual has also been allowed to place their own mark on the production.