The Miser – Moliere (freely adapted by Sean Foley and Phil Porter)
Theatre Royal Bath
It is important to note the term “freely adapted” coined by the writers Sean Foley and Phil Porter as this production takes to the stage at The Theatre Royal. Moliere created The Miser, Harpagon, to reflect the obsession and protection one man might go to in order to protect his wealth. His paranoia forces him to push his children into loveless wealthy marriages whilst he inadvertently loves a young and beautiful girl who has no dowry. After much confusion and double crossing the production hurtles to its resolution.
The cast is a stellar list by any standards. Lee Mack as the beleaguered, multi role playing Maitre Jacques lends a caustic razor sharp wit to proceedings. The frequent audience “participation” is both effective and fun breaking down any premise set by the grandeur of the design by Alice Power.
Griff Rhys Jones is in complete control as Harpagon alongside the excellent Matthew Horne (Valere) and Ryan Cage (Celante.) The physical comedy and superb direction by Sean Foley ensures there is little time to stop; however at times it is difficult to maintain the frenetic pace.
The updated script at times is genial and at others laboured and repetitive. There is much to like and the satire remains intact although the political nods could be braver and harsher. The difficulty is the occasional clash of styles which breaks the moment. One or two gags are too contrived and expose the vulnerability of the reworking.
This is a solid production, it is good to laugh in this current climate and perhaps this will provide a much needed tonic to the current political situation. The references to Trump’s waterboarding as well as Brexit are not lost; it will be interesting to see how the script morphs with the many changes looming on the horizon.
*** 1/2 Stars