Theatre Review: Tartuffe

Molière’s seventeenth-century play is given new life in the State Theatre Company and Brink Production’s final offering of 2016, ‘Tartuffe’.

Presented by State Theatre Company and Brink Productions
Reviewed 8 November 2016

Molière’s seventeenth-century play is given new life in the State Theatre Company and Brink Production’s final offering of 2016, Tartuffe. The new adaptation by Adelaide local, Phillip Kavanagh, proves outrageous and raucously funny.

Photo: Kate Pardey

Photo: Kate Pardey

Entranced with the vagabond come preacher Tartuffe (Nathan O’Keefe), Orgon (Paul Blackwell) invites him into his Parisian upper-class home and lavishes gifts on him. Hanging on every falsely pious word he utters, Orgon decides to offer Tartuffe his daughter Mariane (Rachel Burke) in marriage. Orgon’s family watches in horror as the wedding draws closer, until his wife Elmire (Astrid Pill) is forced to accept Tartuffe’s seduction in order to expose his true malicious nature.

Kavanagh’s adaptation honours Molière’s original. The themes of piety, hypocrisy, morality, and love remain prominent. Kavanagh seamlessly injects references to popular culture to ensure it remains relatable for modern audiences.

Composer Alan John performs the original score on-stage, sitting just behind the set. When required, he rises and portrays both Madame Pernelle and the servant Laurent. His score serves as a perfect accompaniment to the play, and his dual role adds a bizarre element to the production, which works well.

Photo: Kate Pardey

Photo: Kate Pardey

The cast shares an incredible on-stage chemistry. The love scene between Mariane and her betrothed Valere (Antoine Jelk) is perfectly timed and purposefully over-acted, and sees comic relief from the impudent maid Dorine (Jacqy Phillips). Guy O’Grady plays Orgon’s imbecilic son Damis with a charming abandon. Pill portrays Elmire as a woman of presence and conviction surrounded by her witless family. Blackwell’s Orgon gravitates towards Tartuffe, needing to be physically close to him, and hanging on every word with a hapless blind faith. Perfectly rehearsed and snappily timed, both the cast and director Chris Drummond must be praised – though Phillips did regrettably stumble over a few of her lines during the first act.

Above all, O’Keefe’s portrayal of the titular Tartuffe should be commended. He acts with an unstoppable kinetic energy – jumping onto the dining table with glee as he seduces Elmire. His body language and voice change depending on the scene and, more importantly, what he wants to gain from each encounter.

Tartuffe is an unstoppable force of nature. Every aspect of this production – from Kavanagh’s adaptation, to the opulent set, to the cast – is irresistible. Perhaps not for the easily offended, faint of heart, or weak of mind.

Review by Nicola Woolford.

Venue: Dunstan Playhouse
Season: 4 – 20 Nov 2016
Duration: 2 hours 40 mins
Tickets: $28 – $72
Bookings: BASS


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