Birmingham Repertory Theatre – until 5 November 2022
Guest reviewer: Nadia Dodd
Many great comedies are reimagined and this Moliére re-adaptation, originally commissioned and produced by the Royal Shakespeare Company made with The Rep, is very obliging to the audience. Highly enjoyable and offering a new radical take on the original book that was produced in 1664.
Written by Anil Gupta and Richard Pinto, the action has been relocated to a Birmingham suburb where a British Pakistani family live a life of comfortable affluence. Imran (Simon Nagra), the parvenu patriarch, was once proud of his Norwegian spruce decking, but has fallen under the spell of a seemingly strait-laced holy man, Tartuffe, played by Asif Khan. Not only does Imran decide the family has to live as “real Muslims”, he also plans to marry his progressive daughter, studying the plight of women in sub-Saharan Africa, to Tartuffe and even signs over his property to the two-faced intruder.
The cast has been perfectly chosen. Olga Fedori (Darina) who plays the Bosnian cleaner of the Pakistani family for 10 years has such a dry sense of humour, plus such love for the family’s well-being. It becomes her responsibility to help daughter Mariam (Anshula Bain) to convince her father that she should marry a man that she actually loves, Waqaas (Qasim Mahmood) and not Tartuffe, an older man who she doesn’t even like let alone love.
Credit to Imran’s mother, Dadimaa (Siddiqua Akhtar) who had the audience in raucous laughter with her quick wit, sharp tongue and brightly decorated mobility walking frame.
Tartuffe will get found out in the end and be revealed as the liar and fraud that he has been all along. You could even feel some sympathy for him, ever so slightly. His scene with Amira (Natalia Campbell), the beautiful wife of Imran, where he attempts to seduce her is hilarious. Khan endows Tartuffe with just the right amount of lechery as he hops around in his leopard skin underpants, trying to be amorous whilst taking off a pair of skinny jeans.
The show offers a vigorous new take on Molière’s play by reminding us that wealth offers no protection against a hostile environment and that all of the world’s religions are subject to slippery abuse.
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