Theatre Review: Tartuffe @ Tobacco Factory Theatre
by Polly Hember
Andrew Hilton and Dominic Power have ignited the enduring themes and devices of Tartuffe, creating a brilliant, witty and uncompromising adaptation that resonates sharply with our own tense contemporary zeitgeist. Molière’s original 17th century masterpiece Tartuffe (or The Imposter or The Hypocrite) follows the story of a pillar of the community who is manipulated by an enigmatic but notoriously brazen hypocrite. Hilton and Power have transformed the original rhyming couplets into a fresh, free and captivating piece that respectfully incorporates many rhymes into a rhythmic and fast-paced script. It delights in its own playful internal rhyme and with great comedic skill, places many well-timed laughs on the result of a rhyming couplet. Hilton and Power adhere impressively to Molière’s original characterisation and scene structure whilst transporting Tartuffe into present-day London.
Christopher Bianchi is an excellent Charles Ogden, a naïve Tory MP who is tricked and subsequently exploited by the lying, wicked Tartuffe (Mark Meadows). In this modern telling, Tartuffe deceives Charles with tales of his traumatic upbringing and altruistic aims of his supposedly charitable organisation “Aspiration UK”. Bianchi plays the fool with such soft optimism that his gullibility is quite sweet, despite the backdrop of his family and career’s tragi-comic dissolution. Meadow’s wicked performance of the two-faced trickster is likewise done with playfulness and impetuous comedic timing as he annoys everyone on-stage, apart from the doting Charles.
From Saskia Portway’s performance of the exasperated but understanding wife, to the “voice of reason”, the left-wing journalist Clem, the production is populated by brilliantly strong performances from all.
Anna Alijasz as Danuta
Anna Elijasz delivers a phenomenal portrayal of Danuta, a Polish housekeeper whose quick-wit and hilariously honest objections to the progression of events are at the heart of both Tartuffe’s satire and it’s serious moments. Written and set in a post-Brexit London, the tense interplay between the dismissive elderly Lady Ogden, the well-meaning but blundering Charles and the sex-obsessed Tartuffe and the intelligent and sharp housekeeper who operates with complete integrity are particularly provocative, well-written and brilliantly executed by Elijasz.
The enduring themes of hypocrisy and credulousness, alongside the self-invented man Tartuffe’s ability to hoodwink and deceive people in power – and almost get away with it – translate so sharply into today’s “post-truth” and “alternative facts” climate. The script openly references current issues like Trump and Brexit, presenting an unveiled tragi-comedy of errors that succeeds in delivering a very pragmatic message about trustworthiness and not believing everything you hear (especially in the Tabloids, facebook and twitter), reminding us that from the 17th century right into the 21st that we, as people, are enduringly vulnerable prey to those imposters and hypocrites.
Hilton and Power have transformed Tartuffe into a resonating, sharp satire with lots of laughter as well as careful socio-political commentary. With brilliant writing and a fantastic cast, it is undoubtedly a success.
Click on our gallery to see the cast in action!
All photography by Craig Fuller for the Tobacco Factory and Shakespeare at the Tobacco Factory.
Tartuffe is running at the Tobacco Factory 6th April - 6th May 2017.
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