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The Misanthrope (tour - Cambridge, Arts Theatre)

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
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One can admire Alceste's tunnel-vision attitude to social hypocrisy but that doesn't mean that one warms to him. Roger McGough has completed his hat-trick of Molière adaptations with a version of Le Misanthrope, which cocks its own snook at verse patterns, Restoration comedy stage conventions, and the whole panoply of male-female relationships. Overall, it's a clever piece of what a programme note refers to as "McGoughière".

Colin Tierney's Alceste is a very fine characterisation of a man who knows what's right, does it and then has to live with the consequences. His beloved, flirtatious Célimène, is Zara Tempest-Walters, who looks the part but somehow lacks the warmth underneath the socialite exterior that must first have attracted Alceste. Joining her in the salon for scandal are Daniel Goode as the would-be poet Oronte as well as Leander Deeny and George Potts as the most fluffy and flowery of sybaritic courtiers, Clitandre and Acaste.

The voice of common-sense in all this is that of Alceste's friend Philante, played by Simon Coates. His acceptance of social custom eventually leads him to be rewarded with Eliante, Célimène's cousin, a young lady made perhaps more silly than she need be by Alison Pargeter. Director Gemma Bodinetz keeps her cast on the move, partly through Charlotte Broom's choeography. It's all sumptuously designed by Michael Taylor, framed by sun-mask latticework behind which peacock and purple throw the predominantly white costumes into relief.


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