TARTUFFE | Theatre Royal Haymarket, London

Molière is sometimes called “the Shakespeare of France”, but U.K. productions must either resort to an English translation, or the original French with English surtitles. It’s unusual to do both, and that’s what makes this new Tartuffe the West End’s first ever bilingual theatre production.

The play opens in the plush L. A. penthouse of bilingual billionaire Orgon (Sebastian Roché), who has essentially begun to worship pious Texan Tartuffe (Paul Anderson) as a cult leader, offering him his daughter and everything he owns.

Gerald Garutti’s direction veers about wildly in style, highlighting the difference between some scenes that play out like a ludicrous fable, in rhyming couplets with asides to the audience, and other scenes that deal with the grotesque hypocrisy of Tartuffe’s piety, and the dangers of blind faith. The finale’s instant rescue from tragedy to a happy ending, via deus ex machina, is dealt with in a particularly mad way.

Christopher Hampton has adapted Molière’s heightened poetry into the simplest of modern English, which moves at such a breakneck speed that you can either read the surtitles or watch the actors: you can’t do both. The London audience for this bilingual production must be extremely niche, which perhaps explains the standing ovation from a select few dotted around the audience.

£5 day seats at select performances. Until 28 July 2018.

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