In my naivety and lack of French speech (despite learning it for quite the number of years), I spent most of the week in the run up to this review, completely mispronouncing it.
However, after this production, there is no mistaking the name of Tartuffe.
Tartuffe by Molière is a comical yet poignant play about the differences and priorities of the class system. Tartuffe is brought into a rich family, when the man of the house begins questioning life and everything underneath his roof. This affects his family and his general existence and we question who really is the villain of the piece.
Denis O’Hare, who plays Tartuffe himself is excellent. He is the quintessential homeless hippy yet never tries to be anything other than what the family members say he is. He is vibrant and hilarious and while we are geared to hate him, we kind of love him too.
He embodies this smelly and unhealthy man, and yet the way he is portrayed and allows himself to be portrayed to the point where we feel like we can smell, taste and feel everything he is.
The whole production is full of very well rehearsed and thought out moments of slapstick humour and action – it is fast paced and full to the brim with comedy that we are never uncomfortable or lacking a moment of interest in what is on stage. All the actors react and perform with complete perfection.
When we reach the end, our hilarity is cut short. We are suddenly reminded of the ‘moral story’ and things become dark and real. This echoes much of the writing at The Royal Court and feels like a shock change to the laughter we encountered previously.
For a very old play, Tartuffe is extremely poignant and has the great ability to hold us in comedy to then suddenly drop us into doom.