Theatre review: Tartuffe at The Rep, Birmingham

The Rep’s take on Molière’s classic 17th-century comedy is the debut production from new artistic director Roxana Silbert, and one of the cornerstones of the refurbished venue’s autumn season. The Fast Show and Harry Potter star Mark Williams plays the eponymous lead role, a hypocritical religious zealot who ingratiates himself with the wealthy Orgon, much to the despair of Orgon’s family.

The production loses nothing of the anarchy and fun of Molière’s original text, with pithy satire couched within the knockabout slapstick. While Chris Campbell’s English translation pays due respect to the original work, the show is joyously irreverent, smashing the fourth wall with moments of audience interaction and references to today’s current affairs, with an Aston Villa scarf and a name check for the new building next door giving things a decidedly Brummie slant.

Although Williams is the cast’s marquee name, it’s very much an ensemble piece, with particularly sparkling turns from Paul Hunter as the hapless Orgon, Ayesha Antoine as streetwise housemaid Dorine and the sadly-underused Calum Finlay as sappy love interest Valère. Janice Connolly – the actress behind stand-up comedian Barbara Nice – also shines as hard-nosed matriarch Madame Pernelle.

The magnificent House auditorium, the new-look Rep’s 800-seat centrepiece, makes for a fitting home for the production – suitably grand, yet distinctly modern and unpretentious. A decidedly more riotous experience than you might expect from a 350-year-old French play, you can’t help but feel that Molière would approve.

Tartuffe runs until November 16 at The Rep. More details here. 

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