Tartuffe – Abbey Theatre – Review

Tartuffe – Abbey Theatre – Review

An Abbey Theatre production – Tartuffe
3 March – 8 April 2023
Photos by Ros Kavanagh

Tartuffe, or The Impostor, (Tartuffe, ou l’Imposteur) is a comedy written by Molière and first performed in 1664. It is considered one of Molière’s most significant works. The play was quite controversial at the time and was denounced by the Catholic Church for its depiction of religious hypocrisy and was suppressed by King Louis XIV.  This is a new adaptation of the play by Frank McGuinness, which keeps the same style of rhyming couplets throughout.

It tells the story of Orgon, a man of some standing and the head of his household. He has fallen under the spell of Tartuffe. Orgon has been tricked into thinking that Tartuffe is a devout and religious man, who is wise beyond his years. Tartuffe was living as a vagrant prior to meeting Orgon but now has a prominent role in Orgon’s household and is living in splendour. Orgon relies on Tartuffe for advice and guidance. In reality, Tartuffe is not all he seems and is using his persona as a devout man for his own devices!

The production is set in a big house, with large opulent rooms and magnificent costumes. Set and Costume Designer Katie Davenport got to indulge herself with some lavish suits and dresses, which give a sense of pomp and ceremony.  The action takes place in the dining room of the big house, with another smaller room visible to one side. There are a multitude of doors, allowing the staff to appear from any number of angles. It is not immediately clear where the production is set, and there is no distinct Irish flavour, other than in some of the text or choice of phrases.

There is a large ensemble cast, with the great and the good of the household along with the lower orders who cater for their every wish. While the production does largely stay in its refined setting, there are some modern touches with moments between the scenes where the cast dance with impressive life and energy to modern pop music. We hear the Pet Shop Boys, Depeche Mode and others who somehow suit the mood, as the frisky cast cavort and gyrate (Movement Director: Paula O’Reilly).

The real star of the production is Ryan Donaldson as the title character Tartuffe. He indulges in the duplicitous nature of the character and plays it all with a wry grin. His scenes with Elmire (Aislín McGuckin) are some of the highlights, as the two battle wits. Frank McCusker plays Orgon as an honest and well-meaning character, completely taken in by Tartuffe. His fatal flaw is heavily exposed and damages all those around him. The rest of the cast round out the production, as each character is given depth with their own foibles and eccentricities.

This is a light comedy and while it does touch on some serious issues, it is played mostly for laughs. The story is of its time and what was shocking 350 years ago is not quite as edgy today. What it does deliver is some witty wordplay from Frank McGuinness and a fully committed cast, giving their all. The play has some great scenes and colourful moments. If you’re looking for an entertaining if not particularly challenging night at the theatre, this may suit the mood.

Monsieur Loyal: Amy Conroy
Mariane: Emma Rose Creaner
Tartuffe: Ryan Donaldson
Damis: Naoise Dunbar
Dorine: Pauline Hutton
Orgon: Frank McCusker
Elmire: Aislín McGuckin
Filipote: Clare McKenna
Valere: Emmanuel Okoye
Pernelle: Geraldine Plunkett
Officer: Darragh Shannon
Cleante: Kevin Trainor

Written by: Molière
In a new version by: Frank McGuinness
Director: Caitríona McLaughlin
Set and Costume Designer: Katie Davenport
Lighting Designer: Sinéad Wallace
Composer and Sound Designer: Philip Stewart
Movement Director: Paula O’Reilly
Voice Director: Andrea Ainsworth
Casting Director: Sarah Jones
Production Dramaturg: Tanya Dean
Hair and Makeup Designer: Leonard Daly
Associate Composer and Sound Designer: Jane Deasy
Assistant Lighting Designer: Matt Burke
Teaser Trailer: Aileen Power

Categories: Header, Theatre, Theatre Review

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