The Misanthrope - Review

The New Venture Theatre concluded its current season with a Molière classic that had been updated to the present day and set in the sycophantic world of the media. A bold idea that worked well once one became accustomed to hearing the stylised rhyming couplets coming out of contemporary mouths. The play deals with the twin themes of hypocrisy and jealousy through its central character, Alceste, a playwright with utter contempt for flatters and hypocrites who is unable to compromise his beliefs and must speak his mind whatever the consequences. He is in love with Jennifer, a successful movie star, who he loses through his inability to control his obsessive jealousy.

The role of Alceste is a difficult one as the character is not a sympathetic one. In fact, his continuous rages and tirades could become tiresome in the hands of a lesser actor. Martin Nichols managed to bring sufficient light and shade to these outbursts so that ones interest was held. He had a particularly touching moment at the end of the play when Jennifer rejects his offer of a life with him away from the insincere film world. He is alone & his one true friend, Jane, is prevented by the others from going to him. Martin was well supported by a talented cast and, in particular by Jet Tattersall, as Jennifer. She had a wonderful comic & erotic scene in which she taunts the post-feminist, Marcia, with the simulated sex antics of a porn star.

As to reservations I thought that the first scene was over long and could have been trimmed. The tirades & arguments were repetitive. Whilst the audience loved Tony Scola's portrayal of Covington, a critic - and it was a wonderfully funny performance - I felt that it was out of time. It would have sat better in a period production rather than a contemporary one. However I did get particular pleasure from one of his lines - 'A critic can also be an artist'!

Perhaps mention should be made of the conditions that the cast had to perform under on the night that I attended. The recent heavy rain had seeped through to the stage lighting with the result that in the middle of the second scene the lights started to flicker & dim. However this did not faze the cast who kept going until the decision was taken to halt the action. After a short interval the action picked up from the point of interruption and the play resumed under the house lights. Not ideal for the cast as the production was being performed in the semi-round with the audience only inches away from the actors!

Barrie Jerram