One of my favourite stories as a child was The Gingerbread Man. I was always on the side of the fox and really loved it when the irritating, cheeky gingerbread man got what was coming to him. I hadn’t thought of that story for a long time before seeing Tartuffe at the Tobacco Factory Theatre on Thursday 13th April, but it all came back to me during that performance. In fact, one of the words in the dialogue was ‘schadenfreude’. Defined as the pleasure derived from someone else’s misfortune and, just like the gingerbread man, I was hoping for an equally satisfying ending.
Shakespeare at the Tobacco Factory have tackled Moliere before in 2010 but have revisited the French comic playwright to produce a new up to date version of the most performed play in all of classical French theatre.
Gone is the court of Louis XIV; replaced with modern day London and a prominent MP whose ear has been captivated by the story of the self-reinvention guru who calls himself Tartuffe (Mark Meadows). As the performance continues we begin to see that Tartuffe is not all he makes himself out to be, much to the dismay of Charles Ogden MP (Chris Bianchi) who ends up putting his own and his entire family’s future at the mercy of our title character. There was a fairly large cast of characters, which initially was a little confusing, as it centres around one family and all in the space of one day, but the relationships soon fell into place and did not confuse the action.
The original play, first performed in 1664, was written in rhyming couplets and this version has retained some of that structure although in a less strict manner. It wasn’t until about 15 minutes into the performance that my ear tuned into it but once I had I enjoyed hearing how some of the more up to date language was woven into the text. Purists of the genre might struggle with the adaptation but as I was new to the work of Moliere, I found it very easy going and surprisingly relevant given that the original work is over 350 years old. Good stories stand the test of time and this one is no exception. Well written, well directed and really well performed in the round at the fabulous Tobacco Factory Theatre.
I really enjoyed the show and there were some truly laugh out loud moments which helped break the tension. I’d highly recommend this show and if you don’t already know the story then you’ll have to go and find out if the ending I was hoping for was realised, or whether I had to visit the bakery the day after.
Tartuffe is playing at the Tobacco Factory Theatre until 6th May
Review by David Blake (twitter @daveblake78)