Sylvaine Strike brought Moliere’s The Miser to The Market Theatre a few years ago. I loved it. Now she’s brought Moliere’s Tartuffe to The Soweto Theatre. I saw its premiere last night. I loved it.
Translated into English by Richard Wilbur this delightful 17th century French political satire is as up-to-date and relevant as our #SaveSA march on 7 April, 2017, the day after Tartuffe premiered.
Moliere (1622-1673) is known as the “French Shakespeare”. His best known works include Tartuffe and The Miser, as well as The Misanthrope, The School for Wives, The Imaginary Invalid and The Bourgeois Gentleman. He worked under the patronage of the Roi Soleil (Sun King), Louis XIV, but still had to endure censorship and even arrest as a result of his stinging social satire.
The plot as outlined in the programme is simple “A wily opportunist, who affects sanctity and gains complete control over Organ, a rich bourgeois who in his middle years has become a bigot and a prude. To the great despair of the family and staff, Orgon has been brainwashed into believing Tartuffe’s rhetoric, to the point where Orgon feels morally obliged to break off his daughter’s engagement to her greatest love, Valere, and marry her off to this imposter, banishes his son, and signs off his worldly possessions to Tartuffe in the interim. Orgon’s family and staff try as best as they can to make him aware of Tartuffe’s sinister motives, but it appears to be too late!”
Directed by Sylvaine Strike, Tartuffe stars Craig Morris as Tartuffe and Madame Pernelle, Neil McCarthy as Orgon, Vanessa Cooke as Dorine (the domestic staff), Khutjo Green as Elmire (Orgon’s wife), Camilla Waldman as Cleante (Orgon’s sister), Adrian Alper as Damis (Orgon’s son), Vuyelwa Maluleke as Mariane (Orgon’s daughter), Anele Situlweni as Valere (Mariane’s suitor) and William Harding as Monsieur Loyal and the Officer. The ensemble was strong and I was entranced by their stunning acting and the delightful story and humour unfolding flawlessly before me.
Set design is by Sasha Ehlers and Chen Nakar, with costumes (1930’s style) by Sasha Ehlerss), lighting by Oliver Hauser and stage management by Orapeleng Sedi Moswane. All the music used in the work was composed by Dean Barrett and the choreography was by Owen Lonzar.
Sponsored by the Institut Francais and the Alliance Francaise together with Total, Tartuffe is set for a national tour in Soweto (Soweto Theatre from 5-8 April), Durban (Courtyard Theatre from 24-26 May), Cape Town (Baxter Theatre from 18 April to 29 April) and Johannesburg (Joburg Theatre from 31 May to 25 June) ending at Grahamstown National Arts Festival.