City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

The Miser Review

By Irene Brown - Posted on 29 August 2009

Show details
Edinburgh People’s Theatre
Running time: 
Jean-Baptiste Molière (writer), J.J. Mills (adaptation), John Somerville (director), Lawrie Buchan (set design), Robert Fuller (Lighting Design), Carol Caldwell (costume design), Sheila Parry (production manager), Andy Hope (stage manager), Sally Forth, Robert Fuller (deputy stage managers), Peter Horsfall (sound)
Anne MacKenzie (daughter Élise), Will MacIver (Valère), Scott Braidwood (son Cléante), Dick Godden (miser Harpagon), Graham Bell (Lafleche), Harry Clark (broker/clerk), Mandy Black (Frosine), Ronnie Millar (cook Jacques), Emilie Rawlins (Marianne), Marion McKillop and Joan Hunter (servants), Gordon Braidwood (magistrate), John Lyon (Count)

Earlier this year, I had the pleasure of seeing a French production of Molière's play Le Malade Imaginaire by the Paris company Ecla Théâtre. It was done in period, and was updated linguistically to encompass modern vernacular French. Although this was mostly beyond my understanding, its fantastic theatricality made the piece enjoyable and a visual delight. It was therefore disappointing that one in English with screaming puns and topical references did not do same.

L'Avare (The Miser) was originally written in 1668 by Molière and is a comedy about a stingy man who wants to marry off his son and daughter to rich older people. They in turn want to marry their chosen lovers but after various shenanigans, machinations and misunderstandings things come to a happy but ludicrous end.

Edinburgh People's Theatre's production has been rather pointlessly updated to 1920. The set looked more like a Barnton bungalow than the home of a mean but wealthy man with several servants. The close-up useless paling at the back only served to convince we were in suburbia. A starker set would have been more effective and allow for some imagination.

If an update was felt to be needed, why not just make it contemporary? At least it would have been less challenging for the wardrobe department who clearly don't know about Armstrong's being just round the corner as the costumes were a mish-mash. The exception to this was, oddly, that of the Magistrate who only appeared in the last scene. He was magnificently clad, befitting his position.

Dick Godden made a good job of being miser Harpagon and Mandy Black was her usual lively vivacious self, injecting life into a staid and stagey production as the provocatrice. Ronnie Millar did well as the token camp cook, with shades of Gregor Fisher in his performance but it was Harry Clark, in each small role as broker and clerk who stayed in character and whose comic facial expressions did the parts proud. There were clever and subtle musical money references on the piano to be enjoyed between scenes.

This is the first time I have been bored by a Molière. His plays are timeless but need imagination of presentation to be seen and enjoyed anew, more than just a change of year and a few topical references. Still, after 51 years of performing in the Fringe, maybe EPT knows their audience. It is an amateur show, after all.

Times: 26-29 August 2009, 7.45pm