Roger McGough’s adaptation of Tartuffe (based on Molière’s 17th century masterpiece) returns to Liverpool following its 2008 debut during the city’s year as Capital of Culture. It is welcomed with open arms by an enthusiastic audience.
Tartuffe (Colin Tierney), masquerading as a religious man, is brought into rich Orgon’s family home and soon gets his feet under the table. Orgon (Joseph Alessi) is besotted by Tartuffe’s piety and does not listen to his family’s doubts as to Tartuffe’s true intentions. Orgon’s ill-thought behaviour reaching a crescendo at the end of Act One. Incredibly the energy levels are raised in the second half when the characters become ever more frenzied in an attempt to unmask Tartuffe.
Religious hypocrisy may not be an obvious topic for a work of comedy genius, but McGough’s style suits Molière’s original rhyming couplets and makes the story accessible for audiences of all ages. The rhymes are sometimes groaningly obvious or strained but always knowingly so. The family’s hackneyed use of English sayings, in particular, is very cleverly played and a running joke throughout the piece.
The Versailles Palace-style set is opulent with floor to ceiling mirrored panels. The set and costumes are rich sumptuous colourful fabrics (except for man of the cloth, Tartuffe, of course). Even the draped heavy red curtain on the Playhouse stage suits the time period. Ruari Murchison’s design is simple but effective, with doors and windows used to full effect.
Director Gemma Bodinetz has a gift of a script and cast to work with and makes the most of both. Being consistently funny is not easy, and keeping up the energy of a fast-moving farce takes tight direction. Without exception the performances are outstanding but some are especially praiseworthy: cheeky maid Dorine (Annabel Dowler), Tierney’s Tartuffe with his wonderfully expressive eyes and Madame Pernell (Eithne Browne) who opens the play with a superbly withering speech about the family.
Fast-paced and full of laughter - spend time in the company of Tartuffe as it's a perfect evening out.