Not entirely sure how I got invited to a star studded theatre performance of The Misanthrope at the Polish Club – which was an old stamping ground of mine, back in the day where we could go and drink cheap flavoured vodkas and enjoy the colonial style of the building when we were students…
Obviously I didn’t appreciate it’s fascinating history – written below by my colleague John:-
To the Hemar Theatre at The Polish Club, 55 Exhibition Rd, South Kensington. The wonderful Polish Club in Exhibition Rd dates from the dark days of 1940 when The Polish Government in exile fled to London. The Polish Community unable to return to their country in 1945 due to the Soviet occupation of Eastern Europe remained in London and made 55 Exhibition Rd the heart of their community. It is a fabulous building with a stylish bar and restaurant on the ground floor.
On the second floor is a flexible space used for music and drama. Friday was an historic night as it was the first time a production was performed in English. Produced by the indomitable Maja Lewis and Magdalena Rutkowska Hunt , The Hemar Theatre launched its new artistic programme in English with a French classic Moliere’s The Misanthrope; A Comedy. The play is subtitled a Cantankerous Lover and centres on Alceste – played with great energy by James Ducker – and his hatred for all mankind except his naïve all-encompassing love for Celimene – wonderfully realised by Leonora Barton . The play points up the irony that Alceste dismisses all mankind as superficial and base and yet he himself when it comes to his love for Celimene he lacks self-knowledge and complains of being betrayed when he discovers that she flirts with other men. In the character of Alceste Moliere highlights the contrast between the public life of Artists – in which they may satirise the follies of mankind and their private lives in which they are often just as foolish as everyone else. This is a necessary and important irony to bring out and Moliere does it very well.
For me the star of the show was Arsinoe played superbly by the beguiling Liz Mance. Liz Brings the malicious gossip masquerading as a friend wonderfully to life. The scene in which she attempts to persuade Alceste to abandon Celimene and instead find “consolation” – a euphemism for sex – with her is the high point of The Misanthrope as a satire on the follies of mankind. In this instance the delusions of plain middle aged women, who have long passed their sell by date of seducing younger men.
Hopefully The Misanthrope is the first of many more productions in English to come from The Hemar Theatre at the Polish Hearth Club.