WHEN actor and playwright Jean-Baptiste Poquelin (better known as Moliere) discovered his brilliant talent for writing comedic satires on life in France in the 17th century, he became the darling of the court and the people.
Many of his plays have stood the test of time, and now Richard Bean (the man responsible for the smash hit Goldoni re-write One Man, Two Guvnors), has turned his attention to Moliere’s Le Malade Imaginaire.
The Hypochondriac, as it is now known, has original songs by Richard Thomas, and is on stage at Bath, prior to its UK tour (and hopes of a long London season.)
This hilarious romp starts with three musicians, in scrubs, and a singer, in front of the curtains, singing a scurrilous song about sicknesses … and that sets the tone for the evening.
Without engaging in spoilers, Mr Bean has made use of both the play and the history surrounding it to bring this story to 21st century life.
Argan, played with relish by Tony Robinson, mostly from a wheelchair, is obsessed with his motions. Then there’s his heart, and his lungs. Actually, he’s as fit as a flea.
He’s married to a beautiful schemer, Beline, (Imogen Stubbs) and he’s determined to marry his lovely daughter Angelique, (Lisa Diveney) to a doctor, so he can reduce his astronomical medical bills to the quacks who have seen him coming, years ago.
Angelique has other ideas, and when she meets her excruciating betrothed (an achingly hilarious performance by Craig Gazey), she’s even more determined to disobey her father.
Without the intervention of the maid Toinette (a show-stealing performance by Tracie Bennett), all will be lost. But as with all Moliere’s maids, she has all the trumps and all the tricks.
This brash and bawdy show, choreographed by Javier de Frutos, puts faux-cures, pseudo medicines and psycho-babble under the microscope of comedy – at the same time as turning the spotlight on our own gullibility.
It’s a joy.