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  Life   Art  21 Jun 2018  Play brings Trumped-up Moliere to London

Play brings Trumped-up Moliere to London

AFP
Published : Jun 21, 2018, 7:23 am IST
Updated : Jun 21, 2018, 7:23 am IST

The play is going down well with a young and enthusiastic audience calling for encores.

The play is going down well with a young and enthusiastic audience calling for encores.
 The play is going down well with a young and enthusiastic audience calling for encores.

For the first time in the history of London’s West End theatre district, a play is being staged in English and French — Moliere’s classic Tartuffe, transposed into Donald Trump’s United States.

The comedy at the Theatre Royal Haymarket stars two television regulars from either side of the Channel — Paul Anderson in the title role as a US evangelist, and Audrey Fleurot as Elmire.

Anderson is known for his role as Arthur in “Peaky Blinders”, a crime drama series about a 1920s gang in Birmingham, while flamboyant redhead Audrey Fleurot played lawyer Josephine Karlsson in the Paris police and legal drama “Spiral”.

In the modern take on the 1660s play, Orgon, portrayed by Sebastian Roche, is a French media tycoon in Los Angeles, who falls under the spell of radical evangelist Tartuffe.

Tartuffe has hoodwinked Orgon so comprehensively that he looks set to steal his fortune, drive away his son, seduce his wife Elmire and marry his daughter.

The play is going down well with a young and enthusiastic audience calling for encores.

However, newspaper critics have not been so keen. The Times said “Merde, what a mess”, calling it a “pretentious shambles” and “excruciating”, while The Daily Telegraph said it was “frankly maladroit” and “induces tears of frustration”.

Is it provocative to stage a bilingual play in Britain as it heads for the EU exit door? “Tartuffe has always been a scandalous play, right from its origins when it was banned, and the provocation inherent in the play continues,” director Gerald Garutti told AFP.

“It’s a play which divides opinions, between those who favour a form of openness, and those who tend more towards withdrawal, autonomy, insularity and something more closed. And clearly politics and ideology have a stake in it,” he said, in reference to Brexit.

Garutti prefers to go by the acclaim from the stalls, where a Netflix-happy generation is able to juggle with the languages and the surtitles, which crop up in several places around the stage.

And in Christopher Hampton’s adaptation, a final surprise twist anchors the play in the realities of the modern-day United States under President Trump.

“I wanted to keep as much as possible of the original text and in thinking of the idea of a religious guru, I naturally thought of California,” Hampton told AFP.

“From that came the idea of an American Tartuffe with whom all the members of the family have to speak in English.”  Besides Trump, “the Me Too movement was a strong part of my thinking. :”Like all the great plays, Tartuffe’ remains relevant in a slightly different way with the passage of time.”

Tags: royal haymarket, peaky blinders, los angeles