Tartuffe - a C17th French masterpiece still resonating today

STF’s latest production of Moliere’s masterpiece finds a contemporary relevance in this new rendition. Reinvented by Andrew Hilton (STF’s director) and Dominic Power, this is a modern take on a 353 year old play.

Charles Ogden (Christopher Bianchi), wealthy MP and his mother Dame Pamela Ogden (Tina Gray), have fallen under the spell of Tartuffe. In the original, Tartuffe is a pious fraud. Here, the role of the slippery Tartuffe (played with half-lidded sleaziness by Mark Meadows) is modernised: this new age guru offers up platitudes and teaches Charles how to chant and meditate. Charles’ wife, children and house-keeper are not fooled by Tartuffe and the play charts their progress to enlighten their father. The cast turn in fine performances but Christopher Bianchi’s patrician Ogden and Saskia Portway’s Emma are particularly polished.

The language follows Moliere’s pattern speech by speech but iambic pentameter is used (rather than Moliere’s 12 syllable lines). Hilton and Power translated from Moliere, but rather than force the text into rhyming couplets (as in the original), they allow a more organic mode of dialogue, using some couplets, internal rhyme and enjambment. The relationships are tied through the dialogue as an actor often completes another’s rhyme, making it pleasing to the ear.

Tartuffe draws comparisons with a current school of thought which denigrates knowledge and experience. As the arch-deceiver Tartuffe declares, ‘Your mistake… to put your faith in experts’, reminding us of politicians like Michael Gove and Donald Trump who try to convince us that there is nothing to learn from experts.

STF’s dynamic and enjoyable production satirises this ‘superficial age’ of the internet, fake news and demagoguery.

(c) Samantha Coughlan

27th April 2017

Tartuffe
6th April - 6th May 2017

Shakespeare at the Tobacco Factory
http://stf-theatre.org.uk

Tobacco Factory
Bristol
http://tobaccofactorytheatres.com/

Author's review: 
4