It's a crackin' ploy an' bostin loff

Tartuffe

Birmingham Rep

****

 I GUESS with so many TV programmes about scroungers and benefit cheats and the devious ways that people dupe the system then the seemingly innocent but malicious character of Molière's Tartuffe might be viewed as the 16th century equivalent.

He certainly seems to have landed on his feet in this rich and colourful setting that designer Liz Ashcroft has created with a towering stately home façade, resplendent with a full scale decal of Fragonard's painting The Swing and it will be a look, I am sure, that many a wag will be after for their footballer's home, once this gets out.

Indeed it is this first sumptuous impression that stamps an authority of total visual quality on the Reps production, but one that with the addition of the colourful cast gets a bit wary and overpowering after time.

Director Roxanne Silbert however has pulled out all of the `Brummie ‘stops here injecting a lively dose of local references that would not be out of place in a Christmas pantomime.  Very welcome they are too as Molière's tale of a wealthy household reduced to near poverty at the hands of a vagabond, has few real modern laughs. It was all down to this talented cast who used their comic timing, audience interaction, and funny walks to achieve the best laughs on the night.

Handling the role of Tartuffe is West Midlander, Mark Williams making his Rep debut and his long experience in internationally acclaimed films such as Harry Potter was clearly evident mastering the subtleties of the role with ease.

Adding to the home grown talent was Janice Connolly (Barbara Nice) as the dotty Mrs Pernelle and long-time Rep associate Roderick Smith as the officer, who received a loud cheer when he announced he had arrived from ` Wolverhampton! ‘

A notable performance came from Sian Brooke as Elmire who positively rippled with physical sexuality during her comical seduction of Tartuffe to secure his undoing for the benefit of her concealed husband Orgon.

In turn Orgon played by Paul Hunters drew the majority of the laughs through a series of funny walks and stances but again, as someone who is no stranger to working in major films like Pirates of the Caribbean, totally commanded the role.

It's great to see the Rep adding such a local flavour to this production both in its casting and treatment of the script. Without it would have been very dry as the whole tale of Tartuffe stretches the boundaries of common sense.

Thankfully it stops short of eliciting the audience to call out `he's behind you ‘and the production  has some genuinely funny moments all staged in a brilliantly realised and colourful setting.  To 16-11-13.

Jeff Grant 

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