Directed by Peter Evans
Bell Shakespeare Company
The Playhouse, Canberra Theatre Centre to 20 April
Reviewed by Len Power 12 April 2019
Moliére’s ‘The Miser’, first produced in Paris in 1668 is a comedy about family dynamics and greed as well as the conflict and chaos that can reign in the interplay between love, manipulation and money. It comes up as fresh as a daisy in this new production by Bell Shakespeare Company which was translated and written by Justin Fleming and directed by Peter Evans.
Filled with sparkling wit and sprinkled with Aussie slang, Justin Fleming’s script is a delight. I’m sure that if you saw the show a second time, you would pick up on many things you missed the first time.
Director, Peter Evans, adds another dimension with his terrific staging of the show. It moves at a breathless pace with great clarity and depth. It’s full of expertly played physical comedy as well as clear delivery of the high-speed dialogue. Even the scene changes are funny.
His cast of nine excellent comedians perform with wicked relish. At the centre of the show is John Bell as the miser, Harpagon, in a powerful performance of an old man struggling to maintain control of his wealth and the lives of those around him. His dexterity with the words is masterful as is his comic timing. It’s a performance to remember.
|John Bell (centre) with Damien Strouthos (left) and Harriet Gordon-Anderson (right)|
The other cast members all have their moments to shine. Harriet Gordon-Anderson as Élise and Jessica Tovey as Valére are delightful and warm in their loving relationship. Damien Strouthos is great fun as the energetic and frantic son, Cleante and Michelle Doake is strong and commanding as the scheming matchmaker, Frosine. Elizabeth Nabben deftly plays the confusion of being the intended of both Harpagon and Cleante and Jamie Oxenbould is hysterically funny as the servant, Master Jacques. Sean O’Shea is a wonderfully snooty Signor Anselm as well as the sulky servant, La Fleche. Also highly effective in dual roles is Russell Smith as Master Simon, the loan shark, and as the Commissioner of Police with an amusingly strong Australian drawl.
|From left: Sean O'Shea, Harriet Gordon-Anderson, Jessica Tovey, John Bell, Elizabeth Nabben, Michelle Doake and Russell Smith|
There’s a fine lighting design by Matt Cox and Anna Tregloan’s towering curved set with four doors that get quite a workout is excellent as are her colourful period-crossing costume designs.
It’s always surprising how modern the ideas and characters are in Moliére’s plays. Justin Fleming’s clever writing honours the original and, combined with Peter Evans’ direction, the result is an outstanding and enjoyable evening of theatre.
Photos by Prudence Upton
Len Power’s reviews are also broadcast on the Artsound FM 92.7 ‘In the Foyer’ program on Mondays and Wednesdays at 3.30pm.