Presented by Blackwood Players Inc
Reviewed 5 October 2018
This famous and enduring piece of French Theatre has lasted a very long time, the mark of a piece of well-crafted theatre. It hit the stage running on 10 February 1673 at the Théâtre du Palais-Royal in Paris and has been leaving audiences out of breath ever since. Blackwood Players valiant attempt to bring it to life again was well received on its first night by a local dedicated audience of Blackwood Players supporters (sounds like I’ve been at a football match). As with many community group offerings the opening night was a bit of a curate’s egg.
Karina Black knows her stuff, she has a very good eye for detail and her eclectic and interesting set gave the visual appearance of a much larger space than it is. Making the plays setting, the grand hall of Argan’s house, very believable and also providing a really interesting playpen for the actors to work in. She had her work cut out for her with a cast that fluctuated between ready and able to do the work and the odd actor who didn’t quite fit the mix on the night.
The play is a rollicking roller coaster of a piece of nonsense that is the precursor to modern farce. It was born out of a time when acting was larger than life and the buffoonery of the characters were an integral part of the delivery of the piece. The style demands wit, with an understanding of satire. It requires the courage of actors to expose themselves (theatrically) and requires the ability to not care what an audience might think of you in the name of comedy. Molier’s work has its roots in Comedia with a generous serve of buffoonery and is a test of the mettle of even the best actors.
The ensemble gave it their best shot and I am sure they would have been mighty pleased with the response they received at the end of a really demanding night’s work. There were some memorable moments, Janet Jauncey as Toinette had quite a few of them, often saving the flagging energy with her bouncy, constant, clear and effective performance. Her changes to disguise herself as a doctor were particularly amusing.
Dawn Ross as Beline was clearly enjoying herself, as was Rebecca Gardener as Beralde. The two women were instrumental in moving the energy forward and keeping the play tripping along.
The young lovers Angelique (Jessica McGaffin) and Cleante (Adam Schultz) gave a moment or two of light relief and some very comic opera (I hope the singing was meant to be off pitch and out of rhythm).
The younger members of the cast seemed to be more at home with the work than the older members. There were some memorable moments that raised a few well deserved laughs from Alexander Borley as Thomas Diafoirus, Tammy Shiels as Louison, Natalie Kennedy as Monsieur Purgon and Alice Connelly as Madame Fleurant and Monsieur deBonnefoi. A particularly funny spanking moment came at just the right moment to save the day.
Some of the older gentlemen’s character choices were a little too slow and unfulfilled to make the characters shine. Perhaps a bit more pace and energy from John Lanigan-O’Keefe as Argan and Roland Lever as Monsieur Diafoirus would help the lightness and underpin the comedy. As experienced performers I found their attention to their characters a little slap dash. They seemed to be waiting for laughs that weren’t going to happen.
At the end of the evening as I was packing up my notepad and exiting the theatre as unobtrusively as possible I overheard some very complimentary remarks from a very dedicated audience. Now that’s the real reason we have such a valuable and diverse set of community theatre companies in Adelaide; the unflinching support of a dedicated audience. Congratulations Blackwood Players. Really good attempt at a very challenging play.
Reviewed by Adrian M Barnes
Venue: Blackwood 21 (Blackwood Memorial Hall)
Season: October 5th – 20th
Duration: 120 minutes 15 minute interval
Tickets: Adult $20 Concessions/group $18.00 $15.00