Black Swan’s Aussie take on Moliére’s biting satire

WRITTEN more than 350 years ago French playwright Moliére’s biting satire Tartuffe has plenty to say about life and politics circa 2016, Black Swan director Kate Cherry says.

“It’s about shining a light on hypocrisy and people endowed with qualities they don’t have.

“You don’t need to go further than Donald Trump to know there are people who take people in.”

Tartuffe is a “morally bankrupt” priest, who plays on the gullible nature of the wealthy Orgon (Steve Turner).

Although everyone else can see Tartuffe (Darren Gilshenan) for the fraud he really is, Orgon is blind to their entreaties and the relationship between the pair threatens to cost him his wealth, home and possessions, and even his daughter.

An Aussie unwinding for Tartuffe cast at The Standard bar. Photo by Daniel James Grant

An Aussie unwinding for Tartuffe cast at The Standard bar. Photo by Daniel James Grant

Ozzie wit

The Catholic church used its clout to have King Louis XIV ban the play.

Filled with biting satire Justin Fleming’s adaptation of Moliére’s rhyming couplets is transformed into an Australian vernacular, with a liberal lashing of subversive Ozzie wit.

“Orgon – you do realise she was taking the piss?” his brother-in-law Cléante (Hugh Parker) asks.

And I don’t want to get your back up about all this

But I must say in this case her piss-taking is just

It’s as if you fell and hit your head – I mean, are you concussed?

Like Moliére we live in an age of spin, Fleming says.

“And the spin doctors of religion are a rich field.”

The play isn’t about those good people who help the poor, comfort the sick, educate the young and inspire communities to moral action, Fleming says: “But those charlatans who exploit families at their most vulnerable, those wolves who call young people their flock and proceed to ruin their lives, those hypocrites who talk of heaven while plundering the earth.

“For these Moliére is uproariously funny and gut-wrenchingly merciless. He spoke to his century – and he speaks to ours.”

Tartuffe will be Kate Cherry’s last play before she heads east to head up the prestigious acting academy NIDA (National Institute of Dramatic Art).

It’s on at the State Theatre, October 22 to November 6.

by JENNY D’ANGER

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