TV Stars Fail To Align In Tartuffe At Theatre Royal Haymarket
Our favourite character in Tartuffe is Madame Pernelle, the ferocious grandmère who whirls in at the top of act one and, in a genius piece of exposition by Molière, slags off every single member of the cast. It's a splendidly sarcastic series of putdowns, neatly defining their roles in the ensuing plot about a fake preacher and the family he dupes. That it’s done so stylishly by Annick Le Goff — elegantly dressed, coiffed and poised in this modernised updating — is a delight as she savours the bouncy iambic hexameters which drive the French script, and sets the tone for the play.
It’s fine to perform in a mixture of English and French apart from the fact Christopher Hampton’s translation was done 35 years ago and is flat as a week-old crêpe. There’s no logic in who speaks which, and when you have an actress as soignée as Audrey Fleurot playing the wily and sophisticated Elmire in a succession of gorgeous gowns, her French is lyrical but when obliged to lurch into English she turns into the woman who owns the bar in Death in Paradise.
The set by Andrew D Edwards is immediately attractive: bright and modern and convincingly Californian, except it contains a glass-fronted box which in turn sometimes contains some of the cast when their expressions and audibility are severely compromised. It's arty, but it's also self-defeating.
The production is rammed with people off the telly but mostly from cable and Netflix and the casting is diabolically uneven with a raft of mismatched accents and acting styles. Worst of all as Tartuffe himself, with a Southern drawl even less convincing than Tom Hanks’ in The Green Mile, Paul Anderson — Arthur Shelby Junior in Peaky Blinders — doesn’t seem to have a clue, only coming into his character late in the second act with plausibly sinister anger when he’s exposed as a fraud.
Tartuffe, Theatre Royal Haymarket, SW1. Tickets £15-90 until 28 July 2018.
Last Updated 31 May 2018