TWO of the country’s best loved comedians, Griff Rhys Jones and Lee Mack, are starring in a free – very free – adaptation of Moliere’s The Miser, at Bath, Richmond and then at the Garrick in London.
And the cast of Sean Foley’s production also includes a handful of others better known for comedy than theatrical performances. The result is a howlingly funny version of the classic 1668 five-act comedy farce all about a man who loves money much more than anything else.
This version, devised by Foley and Phil Porter, updates most of the text, shamelessly inserts local and topical references, brings audience involvement to a new level, and introduces the ghosts of Baldrick, Kenny Everett and more.
It is Moliere meets The Play that Goes Wrong in its exquisitely timed physical comedy, and timing is all in a show in which at least one of the leading roles is taken by someone who prefers manic improvisation to a more formal script. Some of the time it shows, and there are certainly riffs whose explorations could advantageously be curtailed.
It ends with a large slice of Shakespeare’s plotting, overcooked to pantomime proportions. But overall, as long as you don’t get precious or pompous about the original, this Miser provides an evening of invention and hilarity which is much needed in these worrying times.
There are performances to cherish, notably from Mathew Horne as the ardent suitor Valere, Katy Wix as the romantic Elise, Ryan Gage as the florid Cleante and Ellie White as a Marianne whose peculiar vowels are a joy.
Griff Rhys Jones is energetically grasping in the title role, and Mr Mack’s Maitre Jacques, playing the multiple roles of Harpagon’s many unpaid servants, just takes your breath away.
It is huge fun, but will probably divide audiences between those who go along with it and those who want their Moliere as written. I wonder what M Poquelin would have thought.