The Miser - Review

Review by Simon Jenner

Its 1677, or 1977, and here’s the farce. Moliere as punk hair and not wigs. It works, if you can believe the 17th century time frame, which is kept, with its parallel Young Ones punk fashion aiding high—octane deliveries.

Perhaps a trick was missed in the generation gap but this is avowedly a joyful all-of—a—piece ensemble play, stripped of the usual Moliere gravitas in the prose original itself derived from the Roman Plautus, and ripe for more frantic adaptations than any other of his works. Freyda Thomas’ updated, slangy version suits perfectly. The watchword ‘economic downturn’ is trolled out drolly, and other passages ‘ailing mother’ force a collective ‘aah’ in this superbly paced production by Steven Adams.

Rich miser Harpagon — Des Potton is commandingly screwed up in face and action ~ wants to marry off his son and daughter to hideous elders so they won’t cost him a sou. Alas for him daughter Elise (Kitty Fox Davies is no shrinking Moliere wannamope) has a suitor in a young man Valere (Nicholas Farr’s a canny dissimulator) who saved her from drowning and has now entered service with the family in disguise to be near her. Son Cléante (Young One Nik Balfe) is in love with — as he finds out — the very same young Marianne his father has eyed up since she’s frugal and pretty. In fact Chelsea Newton Mountney’s sparky thick mockney is occasionally profligate and nearly unclad.

However Kirilly Long’s fantastically trippy La Fleche, valet to trippy Cléante has overseen the miser’s hiding place for his gold and hatches a plan to at least borrow it for the children’s and servants’ sake. Likewise marriage broker Frosine (Amanda Harman) is quickly in on the double marriage plot against Harpagnon whose only mutual surprise is discovering through an intermediary that he’s the money-lender his own son has
come to, to mutual furious confusion. There’s fine support from the excellent Frank Leon as the cook Maitre Jaques taking a holiday from F awlty Towers, and James Macauley’s double act of moneylender Simon and the updated Inspector Sansclou.

There’s always a dea ex machina. This time it’s in the wildly improbable Senoir Anselme — Gerry McCrudden’s scarlet and linguistically OTT suitor for the daughter who turns out to be the father of both the lovers of the siblings, separated in one of the sea-storms that punctuate the work, Plautus’ sea-plots making a rare foray in the Paris-locked Moliere’s oeuvre. Dismissing both the inspector’s foraging for guilt and th miser’s resistance, he ensures everyone leaves for Long’s cheery verse epilogue. This has to be one of the most exciting productions at NVT recently, with hardly a weak link, and certainly the funniest.

Simon Jenner