Moliere would approve

MOLIERE wouldn’t recognise the language of the Ozified version of his biting comedy on power, hypocrisy and gullibility –  but no doubt he’d approve.

In Aussie playwright Justin Fleming’s adaptation of Tartuffe things are “suss”, there’s plenty of “piss taking” and “shut your crack”, and a couple of “you’re giving me the shits”.

In a modern day setting there are references to menopause, pot smoking, and a line about “typical ABC bias”, that had the audience creasing over with laughter.

• Steve Turner, Darren Gilshenan, Alex Williams in Justin Fleming’s adaptation of Tartuffe. Photo supplied

• Steve Turner, Darren Gilshenan, Alex Williams in Justin Fleming’s adaptation of Tartuffe. Photo supplied

The actors bounce the Moliére/Fleming rhyming couplets off each other at breakneck speed, at times passing the baton mid-rhyme – always in perfect unison.

The fast-paced story follows middle-aged, dithering Orgon (Steve Turner), who has fallen under the spell of duplicitous “man of God” Tartuffe (Darren Gilshenan).

His family and their outspoken maid Dorine hate the intruder, as they can see through his false piety.

Emily Weir is great as the feisty Dorine, who doesn’t hesitate to tell Orgon what she thinks.

“[Tartuffe] arrives with no shoes, his clothes not worth a cracker.

• Emily Weir is the withering maid to dithering father/daughter team Steve Turner and Tessa Lind.

• Emily Weir is the withering maid to dithering father/daughter team Steve Turner and Tessa Lind.

“No sooner in the door than he starts to wag his clacker,” she says with several appropriately rude, sexual gestures.

Gilshenan’s Tartuffe is repellant as he butters-up Orgon, and even more so as he makes a play for his wife Elmire, played with wonderfully smooth sophistication by Alison Van Reeken.

I’m not sure about the wig though, which seemed to have a life of its own, draped like a dead possum about his face and flicked back behind an ear with a smirk.

Despite Dorine’s warnings, Orgon lines up a marriage between Tartuffe and his own daughter Mariane, who’s already engaged herself to Valere (James Sweeny).

Unlike the maid, Mariane is weak and vacillates between resignation at her fate and wanting to kill herself, while her brother Damis (Alex William) is a young tosser.

Neither really warmed the audience, probably saying more about Moliére’s characterisation than the actors’ ability.

Richard Roberts’ set is pure City Beach mansion setting the tone of an affluent family circa 2016 to perfection.

Fleming’s version of the centuries-old play hilariously demonstrates that nothing really changes about human nature.

Tartuffe is Black Swan Theatre director Kate Cherry’s last show before flying east to head up the prestigious acting academy NIDA (National Institute of Dramatic Art).

It’s on at the State Theatre until November 6.

by JENNY D’ANGER

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