Theatre Royal Haymarket, London – until 28 July 2018
While the cast put in passionate and feisty performances, it has to be said that Gerald Garutti’s dual language production feels muddled.
There is no doubting that Gerald Garutti’s production is stylish to look at but there are moments within it that makes this production feel as though it values style over substance.
Moliere’s dark comedy is a story of power, lust and money as Tartuffe steps up his regime of manipulating Orgon who despite the pleas of family and friends increasingly relies on the advice of Tartuffe to the point of losing everything.
Adapted by Christopher Hampton, despite the slowness of the opening scenes in which too much focus is placed on describing the character of Tartuffe, there is a lovely build up of tension as Tartuffe begins to take full control of Orgon’s house, family and life, the sharp impact of this perfectly executed as Tartuffe demands all of the assets. The adaptation brings out the sharpness of the characters and the events that unfold perceptively. Unfortunately, the production doesn’t fully take advantage of this.
The main trouble is by attempting to convey the story in two languages, some of the meaning and understanding of what is happening can become a little lost in translation – particularly at the beginning when the switches of language can become disorientating and can alienate the audience as they try to keep up with what is going on. This is perhaps not helped by Andrew D Edwards’ slightly clinical and contemporary style set which doesn’t allow the audience to feel fully engaged with characters and what is happening in front of them.
However, it is clear that Garutti has drawn out some very strong performances among his cast that shows there is some deep understanding of the psychological nature of the piece. Stand out performances come from Claude Perron as Dorine frustrated with Orgon’s fascination with Tartuffe – sharply witty throughout she offers some of the best comic moments in the show. Meanwhile, Audrey Fleurot is equally charming to watch as Elmire as she traps Tartuffe in order to reveal to Orgon his true character – the clear repulsiveness that she feels as she attempts to charm is nicely balanced even though it is a scene that can make the audience feel truly uncomfortable at times.
In the title role, Paul Anderson perfectly captures the many different layers to Tartuffe’s character – on the one hand obsessed with God and living a good life, on the other a sinner who wants all the money and power while seducing another man’s wife. It is a graceful and controlled performance that keeps the audience hooked throughout.
It is a production that highlights just how easy it is to be manipulated by other people and the consequences of what happens if we put too much power into the hands of one person – but it doesn’t fully explore Tartuffe’s motivations for turning on the person who helped him from poverty.
The performances from the cast show great depth and understanding, but the way in which this production presents the play feels slightly empty and confused. Too reliant on style and not enough trust in the play and adaptation itself.