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Haymarket - Tartuffe

10th to 25th October 2003.

From the Newbury Weekly News.

Devilish drama

Tartuffe, at The Haymarket Theatre, Basingstoke, from Thursday, October 10 to Saturday, October 25

Molière's 17th-century play was deemed so controversial it was banned by Louis XIV and shut down by the chief of police when first shown, and an irate Archbishop threatened to excommunicate the entire audience.

The Haymarket's season of French plays continued with this simple story of religious fraud Tartuffe, who takes advantage of the kindness of a wealthy citizen (Orgon, a banker), and asks for the hand in marriage of his daughter Mariane, while seducing his wife Elmire.

Characters in the play were said to represent certain groups in society and one of Molière's targets was the Company of the Holy Sacrament, a religious society that employed secret police. The play is still relevant in the modern world, in the superpowers' scramble for global domination.

The play pivoted on the title character in a creditworthy performance by Daniel York, whose speeches sounded very insincere in tone, yet with every outward appearance of sincerity. He adopted a slightly evangelical delivery, tinged with an American accent.

Dressed in a devilishly red suit for most of the play, he portrayed Tartuffe's dark side and avarice well, and on being discovered, got away with it by comically flinging himself around the stage in repentance and wailing on his knees rather a lot.

Towards the end of the play, he appeared dressed like an East End gangster, wearing an impeccably cut suit and white hat, with an expensive-looking overcoat on his shoulders, sleeves dangling empty

There was a strong emphasis on costume, prevalently red, and shiny, shimmering, or velvet fabrics, reflecting a societies' opulence and over-emphasis on outward appearances. The stage was slanted, suggesting that all was out of kilter.

Phoebe Soteriades gave a good performance as Elmire, especially in a seduction scene with Tartuffe, prowling animal-like along a table top, while equally good was Catrin Aaron as Mariane, her distress at an arranged marriage with Tartuffe apparent.

Directed by Phillippe Nadouce, it was a good performance from all the cast on opening night, word-perfect, with no apparent wrinkles, portraying a society awash in a sea of maggoty morals.


This is from the Basingstoke Gazette.

Tartuffe is just terrific

Now let's get the preconceptions over with.

Yes, this is an old French play but it is set in London in 2003 and the actors are speaking English.

Yes, it sounds like some form of mousse dessert but it is actually a deliciously witty take on avarice, vanity and the rest of the seven deadlies.

French playwright Molière first produced the play in 1669, and the adaptation for this performance has been done in the main by the wonderful Christopher Hampton.

As was proved by his successful treatment of Laclos' Les Liaisons Dangereuses for the 1991 Hollywood version, certain themes remain universal.

In Tartuffe we are presented with a wealthy family who exist in a "moral cesspit", according to the matriarch, Madame Pernelle - wonderfully played by Haymarket regular Kate Doherty.

Her verbosity sets the tone for the remainder of the play, as she rebukes them for the problems that their "liberty and licentiousness" have caused.

Her son, Orgon, has invited Tartuffe, a supposed man of God, into their home and the latter has been ingratiating himself to the point where Orgon is about to hand over daughter, home and all to the "holy man". But Madame is blind to his deceit.

The play has many referents within the life of Molière himself. As a child, he enjoyed creating a fuss by mimicking his mother's priest, something which he clearly carried through to write into his portrayal of Tartuffe.

And Daniel York has not let him down.

Finally making his appearance just before the end of Act One, in a wonderful moment, his staring eyes, manic quality and static way of speaking suit the character's rehearsed and manipulative strategies.

But it is very difficult to single out one performance in this most impressive ensemble piece. Special mention must go to Karen Ascoe's consummate Dorine and Phoebe Soteriades' Elmire, whose table-top seduction could easily rival Michelle Pfeiffer's Fabulous Baker Boys piano number for knock-out value.

The staging and direction are superb, with the scarily sloping stage adding perspective. The use of the colour red, firstly as Tartuffe's signature and then spreading to envelop the rest of the cast, is highly effective, with costumes, on the whole, stunning.

As a play about the disarming abilities of rhetoric, it is definitely intelligently talky but no more inaccessible for it.

All in all, this is the best acting in a superlative production, and is simply revelatory.


The Theatreworld review is no longer available ("the eponymous central character brilliantly portrayed by Daniel York").