Tartuffe

Tue 15th – Sat 19th November 2011

reviews

Sapphire Elisha

at 09:59 on 16th Nov 2011

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1disagrees

Simply delightful! A thrilling performance of exceptional quality, Tartuffe has got to be the most exciting show in town.

Exhilarating, hilarious, driven by cunning wit and theatrical spirit, Leo Cairns’s (producer) and Peter Lunga’s (director) adaptation of the classic Molière satire meets and surpasses every expectation. The cast — so-called amateurs — interacted amongst each other with such fluidity and confidence that I very quickly forgot that I was watching a play at all, and soon felt a real part of this worthy tribute to one of Europe’s greatest playwrights.

First, in the soon to be packed out theatre, I was eased into the mood by the sound of playful early baroque music. Although the set was not extravagant, it served its purpose exactly — no more, no less — a concept that seems obvious enough, but is so often misjudged by other directors, leaving one feeling visually undernourished by a naked stage, or indulged to distraction by surplus props. The costumes were stunning and easily rivalled any West End show or period drama (far more convincing than the likes of the 2005 Pride and Prejudice!)

I must admit that after a long day, I was rather daunted by the prospect of sitting in a stuffy theatre for two hours, scribbling notes in the dark; but from the very first scene in which two maids — one buxom and flushed, the other bent over double and pushing retirement — staggered about the stage lugging the copious suitcases of the master of the house, I suddenly perked up, sure that I was in for an evening of entertainment. And entertained we all were, with shrieks of laughter and uncontrolled cackles bursting from the audience, which only added to the chaotic drama. Indeed, it felt at times that the entire theatre was a roaring party, and I cannot conceive of one single spectator who was not, in one way or other, engaged in the action.

Insanity and phoney piety were the two overriding themes, lived out through Don Quixote style visions and ravings by the master of the house, Orgon (played magnificently by eighteen year old Saul Boyer), and the blatantly hypocritical and sexually shameless religious fraud Tartuffe. Justin Wells is the incredibly talented thespian behind the slithering, perverse Tartuffe, who is — despite his gambling and throwing himself at man or woman — described by Orgon to be “a paragon of virtue”.

Each actor, not matter how great or small their part, oozed stage presence, in their individual but complementary way. Amongst the small, but no less memorable characters, was the charismatic Damis, son of Orgon, played by linguist Adam Patel. With a dash of Kenneth Williams and a comedic air of diva, Patel’s gestures and vocal expression, coupled with Damis’s idle threats of fisticuffs, really made this non-lead character stand out. Directorial decisions such as use of lighting and audio were precise and felt completely natural — again, seemingly obvious, but too frequently missed by many directors.

All in all, cast and crew worked so harmoniously together that the play, in my opinion, achieved the ultimate goal of theatre: for the audience to lose its sense of reality completely and become a part of the performance. This was certainly the case for me. I have never been so absorbed by any piece of theatre, and shall without doubt be keeping a sharp look out for the next CUADC show!

Delivered with every sensitivity for Molière’s driving pace and sharp wit, Cambridge University Amateur Dramatic Club left no room for improvement, left no emotion untouched and left no reason for me not to declare Tartuffe the most thrilling piece of theatre in town!

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