Thursday, 28 June 2012

Molière comes to Warrnambool

Bell Shakespeare began their tour of Molière's The School for Wives at Warrnambool's Lighthouse Theatre last night, and it was brilliant.

Translated from the French by Justin Fleming, I initially thought I'd tire of rhyming dialogue if it extended beyond the first scene, but the script was excellent and the actors' delivery so well-timed that it proved to be an essential comedic element throughout.

Originally written in 1662, this adaptation was set in the 1920s.  It tells the story of Arnolde, a wealthy middle-aged man who, years previously, bought a four-year-old girl, with the intention of having her raised in a convent to become his grateful, adoring, guileless wife.  Unfortunately - or fortunately - as the prospect of their marriage draws closer, he unwittingly assists a young rival (Horace) to compete for the affections of Agnes, who is far less stupid than Arnolde would prefer.

John Adam (Arnolde) barely left the stage for 2½ hours and gave an outstanding performance - he must have been exhausted by the end of it - but was supported by a superb cast*.  The stage design (Marg Horwell) was imaginative, ingenious and entertaining in its own right, and the direction by Lee Lewis was faultless.  I loved the visual jokes, the use of music, and particularly the bawdy humour.

One of the most memorable lines came from Georgette, Arnolde's maid, who outdoes herself in proving to her master her ability to insult:
"May your ears turn to arseholes and shit on your shoulders."
I'll keep that for a suitable occasion.

A standing ovation to Molière, Justin Fleming, Lee Lewis and the cast of The School for Wives.

* Agnes - Harriet Dyer; Horace - Meyne Wyatt; Alan - Andrew Johnston; Georgette - Alexandra Aldrich; Chris - Damien Richardson; Henri/Notary - Jonathan Elsom; Laurence/Musician - Mark Jones.

Jean-Baptiste Poquelin a.k.a. Molière - portrait by Pierre Mignard

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