site search by freefind advanced

 Connecting professional and amateur theatre in Newbury, West Berkshire and beyond

New Era - The Miser

24th November to 4th December 2004.

Here is the NWN review.

Characters grew as play progressed

New Era Players: The Miser, at The New Era Theatre, Wash Common, from Wednesday, November 24 to Saturday, December 4th

I went along to review this comedy not knowing quite what to expect, as it is not usually in the repertoire of amateur societies, and spent a pleasant evening making the play’s acquaintance in the society’s charming little theatre.

Set in 1668, The Miser was first performed in Paris with Moliere playing the lead. The programme stated “Initially, it was not well received as the public was more accustomed to great tragedies performed in verse.

“However, along with Moliere’s other plays, it is now recognised as one of the great French classics.” It has been adapted from the original French by Miles Malleson, whom older readers will remember as a character actor.

The action takes place in the house of Monsieur Harpagon, the miser. I thought the opening scene between his servant, Valere, and his daughter, Elise, was weak and required more passion, but their characters became stronger and much more attractive as the play continued.

However, the action was held together by the strong performance of Nigel Winter as Harpagon, who made the most of his script. Wearing a green velvet gown that had seen better days, and a smoking cap, there was not one second when he was not in character, with appropriate voice, facial expressions, mannerisms, habits and ‘business’ that evoked laughs even when there were no lines accompanying them.

Stuart Hillman, playing his son Cleante, was also always in character, with the manners of a fop without being one and Lisa Harrington had a strong Latin personality, although I was not over-enamoured with her fussy costume.

There were some good minor character parts played by the servants, Jane Whitaker and Margaret Rigby, and Bill Egarr as Jacques. Other minor parts supported well.

Proscenium arch and curtains were used, fitting for a play of this period and the set was very believable, apart from the view of the garden that looked what it was, a not very natural painting on the backcloth. Furniture was minimal on a small stage with large cast and a lot of movement. Most of the costumes were eye-catching.

I was surprised by one of the lines, about eating to live and not living to eat – does this concept really originate from all those centuries ago?