Reviewed – 16th April 2018
“Not quite tragique, but certainly confusing and misjudged”
There seems to be a bit of a renaissance for Restoration-era plays going around at the moment. In the past two weeks I have seen two such productions grace our London stages. Gavin McAlinden, of The Acting Gymnasium workshops, follows fashion by producing Molière’s seminal piece, The Misanthrope, showcasing the Gymnasium’s current students. Set in present-day London town, McAlinden brings a modern take on the classic farcical comedy, not always hitting the nail on the head, with certain choices being quite bewildering. It’s tough to make a 350 year old play relevant to today. Yes, it can be done, and has been successfully executed in a clever and fresh manner before, but alas, this production does not quite deliver.
Where the original story follows Alceste, a French aristocrat who is against societal conventions, in this new adaptation, Alceste is a very in demand photographer and socialite, going through an existential crisis. Shifting the action to the fancy areas of London, such as, Soho and Fitzrovia, we follow the so-called ‘Misanthrope’ through his journey of questioning and detesting mankind, yet, Alceste is still unable to stop himself from falling in love with the feisty and strong-minded Célimène. However, he has competition as there are other gentleman on the prowl, whom desire Célimène’s affections.
The initial trouble with this production was struggling to follow precisely what was going on. The Misanthrope has been one of those landmark plays, I have always meant to see and have not ever got around to ever watching. This was not a good way to start. This adaptation, which messily combined and switched between Molière’s original text, and modern language needed to make a distinct choice as to which it would use – not the two together. Relationships between characters at times were not easy to work out, until perhaps mentioned later on in the play, particularly as some roles had been gender-swapped. This also goes for the characters motivations too. Performances from the large cast varied from being rather good, to being really quite questionable. However, being the first show of the run, with a difficult piece, some slack should be given. Not quite tragique, but certainly confusing and misjudged at times.
Reviewed by Phoebe Cole
Photography by Michael Brosnan
Theatro Technis until 29th April
Also by The Acting Gymnasium