Archive for Moliere

The Miser by Moliere, Royal Exchange Theatre, Manchester

Posted in Theatre with tags , , , , on October 1, 2009 by joeshervin
Griffiths gets to grips with his role as Harpagon

Griffiths gets to grips with his role as Harpagon

The set may be dusty and downbeat, yet the performances in The Miser are spritely and splendid. The play races along through two hours of relentless laughter with breathless energy. The fulcrum of Robert Cogo-Fawcett and Braham Murray’s adaptation of the late 17th Century French comedy, is Harpagon, brilliantly and overwhelmingly brought to life by Derek Griffiths, who grumpily stalks the bleached-wooded floor boards, terrorising both cast and audience members alike. Simon Gregor provides a lighter, cheekier touch as the frenzied valet, La Flache, himself leaping and bounding about the stage with equal vigour.

The energetic performances, of those two in particular, offset handsomely against the sparse backdrop and powdered and tatty, yet effortlessly stylish, costume. Designer Ashley Martin-Davies has remarkably juxtaposed bleak, colour-drained dress with a spiky, New Romantic-influenced exuberance. It looks as though the characters have spent the afternoon excitedly dusting down old chalkboards in preparation for a night at an eccentric ball dance. It offers a punky elegance to a brittle background.

The story centres upon Harpagon, a wealthy scrooge, obsessed by money and insensitive to the feelings of others. Especially, it transpires, to those of his son, Cleante, and daughter, Elise. Cleante wishes to marry the beautiful Marianne, whilst Elise has fallen for the cunning steward, Valere. Harpagon, however, is more concerned with marriage dowries than wedded bliss, and has chosen for his daughter the prosperous Signor Anselme, and has cherry-picked the lovely Marianne for himself. Thus follows a series of shocking twists and hilarious consequences, all maneuvered by the powerful Harpagon.

Only the slightly silly and bemusing conclusion deflects from the overall vibrancy of this comedy, accompanied by rather stale and misinformed performances by the statuesque Tim Barlow as Signor Anselme, and the laborious Julian Chargrin as dopey chef Jaques. Chagrin is reminiscent of gormless Nanny in TV cartoon Duckula compared to fleet-footed Gregor and the mesmerising Griffiths.

Nevertheless, The Miser is a triumphant addition to the Royal Exchange this year, extolling juvenile farce and mixing it with offbeat glamour. It is a ferocious rollercoaster on which you’ll be glad to ride.

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