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Posts Tagged ‘Olivia Williams’

If you changed the title, and maybe the character names, you’d never know this was an adaptation of a 350-year-old French play. You’d think it was a contemporary farce set in North London with a touch of social satire. It’s jolly good fun, but it’s not really Moliere.

Making it contemporary stretches the plausibility of Orgon falling under the spell of imposter Tartuffe rather a lot, so suspending disbelief is mandatory. Here Tartuffe is some sort of guru, with a hint of religiosity and Buddhism, who looks like an ageing hippy and spends a lot of time in his pants. Both Orgon and his mother Pernelle worship him, believing he is the antidote to the decadence of the family – wife Elmire and her brother Cleante, son Damis & daughter Mariane and her boyfriend Valere, plus housekeeper Dorine.

Orgon tries to marry Mariane to Tartuffe, who is trying to bed Elmire. All are concerned about Orgon’s wealth and Orgon has a bit of a secret that looks like its going to come back to haunt him. The family seek to entrap Tartuffe in order to avoid Mariane’s marriage and keep the money in the family. With the exception of a changed ending to accomodate the updating, the story is intact, though John Donnelly’s new version dispenses with the rhyming couplets, but it does go into verse at the denouement.

Robert Jones superb design is tasteless nouveau riche. The performance style in Blanche McIntyre’s production of John Donnelly’s adaptation is uniformly broad and loud, which does suit farce. Denis O’Hare plays Tartuffe very physically, a larger than life figure, which suits the role well. Kevin Doyle is the perfect foil as Orgon. As Elmire, Olivia Williams proves very adept at the comedy, also becoming very physical as the play progresses. I loved Kitty Archer and Enyi Okoronkwo as the spoilt kids. There’s great work from Kathy Kiera Clarke as the all knowing housekeeper, Hari Dhillon as an indignant Cleante and Geoffrey Lumb as lover & poet Valere, and a delightful cameo from Susan Engel as Pernelle, who gets the show off to a terrific start.

Just go for some fun and you’ll enjoy it, just don’t go expecting a faithful revival of a French classic.

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Lucy Kirkwood has taken to writing big, complex multi-layered, multi-issue plays. From Sino-American relations to a nuclear incident to particle physics. Think Tim Stoppard, but not so cold and glib, with personal stories for added empathy. I like them. A lot.

Mosquitoes revolves around two sisters – the brilliant Alice, an eminent scientist at CERN in Geneva, and Jenny, a bit of a basket case living in Luton, who seems to believe everything she reads on the internet. Despite the differences they are close, and come to each other’s rescue when needed. Their mum Karen lives with Jenny; she was an eminent scientist in her day too, but perhaps not much of a mother; she’s got an ice cold bite. Alice’s husband disappeared and she’s now in a relationship with Henri. Her troubled teenage son Luke is struggling with bullying at school.

Kirkwood weaves the personal story of these three generations with some mind-blowing science, taking us way beyond now to the possibilities of the distant future, using The Bosun, who seems to be the ghost of Alice’s former husband, as our guide. She writes really sharp dialogue and it’s often very funny, but it sometimes surprises you too, going down quite unpredictable and unexpected paths. I loved the density of the narrative and the meatiness of the dialogue. The personal story has lots of twists and revelations and is simply staged in the round, with a circular floor, a moving circular feature overhead and dramatic lighting and sound effects to convey the science. 

Jenny is a peach of a role which Olivia Coleman clearly relishes and completely inhabits. It’s harder for Olivia Williams to play less emotionally against this, but she does so well. Amanda Boxer is wonderful as mum Karen, seemingly devoid of emotion and fighting dementia, and Joseph Quinn, excellent in Wish List at the Royal Court earlier this year, is hugely impressive as angst ridden lost soul Luke. Rufus Norris’s staging is well paced and captivating, with idiosyncratic scene changes to boot.

This is a very mature play for someone in her early thirties and there’s clearly a lot more to come. I for one can’t wait.

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