Tartuffe

The most prominent feature of this production’s adaptation is its swingin’ sixties setting. A pre-show video gives us a bit of context: a Folgers coffee ad; an extract from ‘Father Knows Best’; a few Beatles clips. The famous footage of Thich Quang Duc setting fire to himself at Saigon is in there too, as are Nixon and Martin Luther King, and crowds of Vietnam protestors. A ten minute long pre-play video is probably always a bad idea. Here, the gravitas of the pre-show video served only to make this gag-a-minute adaptation even more acutely embarrassing.

The programme would certainly have you believe that the American sixties scene evoked has great relevance; Elmire and Dormine, we learn, ‘have progressive views on the rights of women’. Granted, the show is ostensibly set in the sixties: Tartuffe is a hippy, Valere is a Beat Poet, and there are lots of flared trousers flapping around. But the production’s engagement with this troubled decade is superficial at best, cartoonish at worst. Had it been entertaining, though, this might not have been a problem.

The jokes were cringe-worthy. I didn’t laugh when Cleante, whilst trying to convince Orgon to drop Tartuffe, ate mayonnaise spoonfuls straight from the jar. Nor did I smile when Tartuffe put mayonnaise in his fruit juice. What about the time when Mrs Pernelle, during a serious discussion with Orgon, gets a blob of cream on her nose - and doesn’t realise even though all the other characters try to tell her? Needless to say, no. It wasn’t hilarious.

This was compounded by the fact that the gags also distracted us from important bits of plot. In what should be a tense scene between Tartuffe and Orgon, the five characters playing Tartuffe’s disciples (‘a band of hippies’) ruin the moment by sporadically echoing Tartuffe’s words. When Tartuffe argues that ‘a wife can sway her husband’s mind’, the disciples cry ‘sway!’ in unison. Nothing about this show is subtle.

There were glimpses of redemption. Melissa Feris does well in maintaining her dignity as Dorine the maid, which is really saying something, considering hers is the line ‘you deserve to be Tartuffe-ified’. Jack Davis as Tartuffe has nice command of the rhyme, and the cast as a whole buzzes with energy. But this isn't enough. If you like mayonnaise based jokes enough to make the trek to Church Hill Theatre, I’m not going to stop you. But if you’re interested in Moliere’s Tartuffe, don’t bother.

Since you’re here…

… we have a small favour to ask. We don't want your money to support a hack's bar bill at Abattoir, but if you have a pound or two spare, we really encourage you to support a good cause. If this review has either helped you discover a gem or avoid a turkey, consider doing some good that will really make a difference.

You can donate to the charity of your choice, but if you're looking for inspiration, there are three charities we really like.

Mama Biashara
Kate Copstick’s charity, Mama Biashara, works with the poorest and most marginalised people in Kenya. They give grants to set up small, sustainable businesses that bring financial independence and security. That five quid you spend on a large glass of House White? They can save someone’s life with that. And the money for a pair of Air Jordans? Will take four women and their fifteen children away from a man who is raping them and into a new life with a moneymaking business for Mum and happiness for the kids.
Donate to Mama Biashara now

Theatre MAD
The Make A Difference Trust fights HIV & AIDS one stage at a time. Their UK and International grant-making strategy is based on five criteria that raise awareness, educate, and provide care and support for the most vulnerable in society. A host of fundraising events, including Bucket Collections, Late Night Cabarets, West End Eurovision, West End Bares and A West End Christmas continue to raise funds for projects both in the UK and Sub-Saharan Africa.
Donate to Theatre MAD now

Acting For Others
Acting for Others provides financial and emotional support to all theatre workers in times of need through the 14 member charities. During the COVID-19 crisis Acting for Others have raised over £1.7m to support theatre workers affected by the pandemic.
Donate to Acting For Others now

The Blurb

Set in San Francisco in 1969, Moliere's hilarious farce, Tartuffe, follows a 'father knows best' household's fateful tangle with a shady Maharishi and his posse of homeless hippies. The performance is preceded by a multi-media flashback to the 60s.

Most Popular See More

The Phantom of the Opera

From £27.00

More Info

Find Tickets

Frozen the Musical

From £29.00

More Info

Find Tickets

My Fair Lady

From £24.00

More Info

Find Tickets

Moulin Rouge! The Musical

From £30.00

More Info

Find Tickets

Mary Poppins

From £24.00

More Info

Find Tickets

Pretty Woman: The Musical

From £24.00

More Info

Find Tickets