Monday, 4 March 2019

Tartuffe, National Theatre (Lyttleton) - 24 February, 2019

I had all but given up on theatre, after enduring a few evenings of overhyped agit prop and deciding that the "industry" had been entirely overtaken by purveyors of emperors' new clothes, (exhibit A) and people with political axes to grind (except, of course, at the commercial end of things, where vehicles for TV stars and huge vulgar musicals cobbled together from Disney movies hold sway; sadly, these don't appeal to me either).

But, having an evening free in London, I decided to give drama another go. I set out with low hopes, but I'm glad to report that the production I saw of Tartuffe at the National Theatre reignited my love of theatre.

The story the play tells is an old and familiar one - a rich and powerful man falls prey to a charlatan and is very nearly undone. The National Theatre version plays it as a farce, and what made it so pleasurable was the performances. The actors showed marvellous comic timing and there was brilliant interaction between the members of the cast. Only Hari Dhillon as Cleante let the side down a little, with a faintly wooden performance (but then his role is the least interesting of the main characters). Kevin Doyle as Orgon was wonderful and something of a revelation for those of us who have seen him as a succession of spinelessly wicked characters on the television. Kitty Archer, after a very slightly awkward beginning, was hilarious as Orgon's spoilt but charming daughter. Denis O'Hare was funny in a nauseating manner, particularly in the scene involving ice cubes. Kathy Kiera Clarke shone as Dorine.

There were no surprises, just ensemble acting and a reminder of the wonder that is live theatre - these brilliant people have learned their lines perfectly, rehearsed to the level of athletes, and they come out and light up the stage each night, giving performances that are never quite the same, producing each night a new miracle for audiences.

Hello theatre, I'm hooked again.