Moliere’s classic satirical farce about the folly of greed returns to London’s West End with a rousing new adaptation by Sean Foley and Phil Porter.
The play stars double Olivier award-winning Griff Rhys Jones in the title role, alongside TV comedy star, Lee Mack, making his West End acting debut.
In this frantically paced production the emphasis is definitely on the farce, with all manner of gags coming thick and fast. There’s a relentless succession of slick one-liners, running jokes, audience asides, and physical, slap-stick comedy, all of which keeps the audience on its toes and laughing throughout.
At the centre is a wonderful performance from Griff Rhys Jones. His Harpagon, the miser of the title, is ridiculous and very funny, but Rhys Jones also manages to subtly capture the panic and despair of his character as his crackpot plans fall apart and his fear of losing his beloved money looks like becoming a reality. It’s a performance that gives the production some moral authority without taking away from the overall hilarity and madcap tone of this adaptation.
Rhys Jones is admirably supported by Lee Mack’s downtrodden but mischievous servant, Master Jaques. Mack really pulls it off in this stage debut, his hapless resignation, dead-pan delivery and comic timing often reminiscent of Eric Morecambe at his funniest.
Less convincing were Mathew Horne and Katy Wix as young lovers Valere and Elise. Their characters are meant to be shallow and one-dimensional, but for me both performers lacked subtlety and comic insight, with too much shouting and posturing going on. Ryan Gage’s outrageously camp pantomime dandy fared much better, his Cleante bearing more than a passing resemblance to Baby June.
This slick, rip-roaring production may not be one for Moliere purists, but it certainly provides a highly amusing and enjoyable evening’s entertainment.
Runs until June 3 at the Garrick theatre.
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