Thon Man Molière ‘or Whit got him intae aw that bother…’, Lyceum, Review

Rating (out of 5)
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The Royal Lyceum Theatre Edinburgh
Liz Lochhead (writer), Tony Cownie (director), Neil Murray (design), Chris Davey (Lighting Designer), Claire McKenzie(Composer)

Siobhan Redmond (Madeleine Béjart), Jimmy Chisholm (Moliere), Sarah Miele (Menou), Steve McNicoll (Gros-René Du Parc), Nicola Roy (Therese Du Parc), James Anthony Pearson (Michel Baron), Molly Innes (Toinette), Leigh Simpson of Young Lyceum (Mathurine)
Running time

This last hurrah of the Lyceum’s 2016 Season brings the latest play from former Scots Makar and renowned translator of Molière, Liz Lochhead. It lifts the plush red curtain of the 17th century proscenium arch to expose some backstage shenanigans as Jean-Baptiste Poquelin de Molière (Poquie to his pals) creates his renowned satire, Tartuffe.

So what exactly did get Molière ‘intae aw that bother’? Well, think a writer/director who dabbles in satirising dangerous truths, who has patrons in high places and who has a penchant for indecently young women, one of whom has the potential of being his daughter and you have the gist.

Charcoaled chiaroscuro back cloths slice the scenes of mannered sets of this comic farce giving a sense of the theatrical style of the time. But as with other versions of Molière from Lochhead, and indeed their director Tony Cownie, the plays are not set in aspic. Au contraire! The text fairly fizzes with rich and at times bawdy language all delivered brilliantly and passionately by this terrific comic ensemble that’s headed up in great style by Jimmy Chisholm as yer man Molière and Siobhan Redmond as his long suffering sometime paramour Madeleine Béjart.

Steve McNicoll is a tour de force as the ‘not entirely heterosexual’ Gros-René Du Parc who dallies with the ‘double jointed’ Michel Baron, played in impish predatory style by James Anthony Pearson, who in turn ‘passes the time’ with Gros-René’s wife, the lovely Therese played with wide eyed ostensible gullibility by Nicola Roy. All these cairy oans are watched through the all-seeing eyes of the maid, “I’ll no say it but…” Toinette, played in steal-the-show deadpan by Molly Innes.

It is play within a play with bitchy rehearsals of an embryonic Tartuffe written in rhyme and the remaining narrative in prose. While there are tragic aspects like unwanted pregnancies, thwarted lives, unspoken secrets and their consequences and questionable morals throughout, it is comedy that rules in this piece with no small hint of pantomime.

Contemporary style music from Claire McKenzie adds to the atmosphere already set by the magnificent Baroque costumes. Earlier this year, many of this group worked together in another Scots twist on a European classic with What Goes Around but whether its Team Lochhead or Team Cownie matters not. The combination clearly works. The tableau of aphorisms at the end was aptly in the French finale style.

This latest work and World Première from Lochhead, who is steeped in the life and times of Molière, is a braw addition to her Franco/ Scots repertoire where she turns Molière and his plays inside out in her signature gallus style. A rerr and irreverent laugh!

20 May – 11 June 2016