Reviewed 14th March 2017
“a joyous evening with jolly japes aplenty”
At 350 years old, or thereabouts, Molière’s ‘The Miser’ arrives in the West End with a revival that surely the playwright himself would approve of.
‘Freely adapted’ by Sean Foley and Phil Porter, the original five act comedy is nicely condensed into a much more manageable two acts.
Griff Rhys Jones makes a welcome return to the stage in the title role (Harpagon), while Lee Mack makes his West End debut as Maître Jacques, The Miser’s cook, coachman, executioner and general dogsbody. Mathew Horne as Valère, Harpagon’s mistrusted employee, makes up the ‘names’ in the cast.
Remaining faithful(ish) to the original plot, and still set in the reign of Louis XIV – ( “the Arc de Triomphe isn’t built for another 150 years”) – there’s a modern spin on the dialogue with many a topical reference thrown in; zero hours contracts, Trump and Sport Direct all get a mention.
A lot of the humour is a tad puerile, for instance two characters afflicted with speech impediments lead to predictable, yet amusing, situations; Katy Wix as Elise has trouble with her Rs, so it’s a sure fire guarantee she’s going to have to say ‘rank’ at some stage. The spirit of Carry On lives on .. !
Katy Wix (most recently seen as Fergie on Channel 4’s The Windsors) was great fun to watch (even though at times she appeared to have morphed back into the Duchess!), as was the rather lispy Cléante (Ryan Gage) camping it up in some deeply garish outfits.
It was almost like watching one of those plays that Morecambe and Wise used to do, mixed up with a bit of the Two Ronnies – the ‘marry Marianne’ dialogue in the first act could quite easily have been a Barker and Corbett sketch.
The slapstick elements weren’t as sharp as they could have been and paled alongside the visual gags of the likes of The Play That Goes Wrong. Lee Mack was hugely entertaining, but at times it felt like you were watching one of his shows and his gags felt a little too stylised for the plot.
Altogether though, a joyous evening with jolly japes aplenty but bordering at times on panto – Oh no it wasn’t … Oh yes it was.
is running until 3rd June at
The Garrick Theatre
Production Photography by Helen Maybanks