Wednesday, 22 June 2016

The Literati, Griffin and Bell Shakespeare, Stables

Yes, Moliere is neither a new Australian Writer (Griffin's main raison d'etre) nor is he Shakespeare. Never the less, this is a new Australian translation (by Justin Fleming), somewhat Australianised, and it is from the classical canon otherwise, so it does get by.

It's also kinda delightful, if very slightly over-long. Moliere's work is a tad formulaic (it's familiar from Tartuffe and The Miser that I've seen) - there's a young couple in love, the people who block them are obsessed by something-or-other, a friend suggests moderation would be wiser, all ends reasonably happily. Fleming's translation uses various different rhyme schemes throughout, and Lee Lewis' production keeps it witty and bright for most of the length, with most of the cast doing multiple duties as various characters.

Kate Mulvaney is on the posters and dominates proceedings despite being, in effect, a reasonably minor character - she's the easily led snobbish sister of the girl who loves boy. But she effortlessly drips condescension while simultaneously showing a great physicality in her tight, awkward, insecure movements that shows just how shallow her sense of superiority really is. Miranda Tapsell doubles both as the bright lovely heroine (cheery yet not irksome) and as the peeved maid, working well as both. Jamie Oxenbould does stirling work both as the similarly cheery hero and as his beloved's father (including having a scene between his two personas on the fast-moving revolve at the centre of the stage, effortlessly shifting from one to the other and back again by putting on or removing a cap and shifting physicality and voice so virtuosically at the end of the scene he solicits a well-deserved round of applause). Caroline Brazier mostly ends up playing the straight woman either as the pretentious mother or the academic voice of moderation - there isn't quite the go-for-broke comedy in her performance that there is in the rest of the cast. Gareth Davies' Tristian Tosser is maybe a little too much the minor dopey weasel rather than the utterly deceptive slime that the role really calls for - you're not really begging for him to have his come-uppance as much as you might, and while he's still fairly amusing, his performance is a little too puppy-doggy and eager to be liked.

Still, this is a fairly fun and frivolous evening, with a couple of very strong and impressive performances in there. It could probably use 15 minutes worth of tightening during act one (there's a couple of debates back and forth that really don't advance the plot or particularly amuse so much as they underline the point of the show with a trowel - we've got the point, pretension is silly, move on), but in exchange for that, you do get a lot of good fun. So worth seeing.

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