The Miser Moliere’s classic French comedy has been adapted in the most inventive way by Sean Foley & Phil Porter. They have produced an original mish mash blend of farce, word play, puns, double entendre, singing, dancing and slapstick to provide two hours of pure joy. It is brilliant and currently at Richmond Theatre. It will be transferring to the West End and will be a hit so get in quick and see it at Richmond Theatre. The cast is very strong; Griff Rhys Jones, Lee Mack, Matthew Horne, Katy Wix & Ryan Gage to name a few.
Foley & Porter have broken all the rules. If it’s funny they’ll use it. Sticking more or less to Molière’s play they add contemporary social and political satire about money, bankers and sex. They use audience participation to cross the boundary between stage and stalls. Echoing John Lennon they ask those in the stalls to shake their pearls and those in the upper circle to clap. They include an agitprop song routine right out of the 1970s, “theres a reason the rich are rich,” wonderful stuff. Drawing on Congreves restoration comedy “The Way of The World” and Hip Hop music and dance The Miser dazzles and delights and never fails to get a laugh or hit the mark. It is a tour de force of contemporary theatre showing that classic drama can be made to come alive and live in our time. In that sense it’s truer to Molière’s original which was itself a contemporary comedy. A minority of purists won’t like it but the vast majority of the theatre going public who want an entertaining evening will love it and come back more than once.
There are many superb performances to savour. Katy Wix as Elise daughter of the Miser Harpagon (Griff Rhys Jones) is a joy. She has a lisp which means her R’s are W’s. She compliments her lover Valere (Matthew Horne) as being” Weally Wather Wavishing” and says that his “Wank” in the army is” impweseive.” It’s an old trick but she pulls it off wonderfully. I smiled every time she was on stage. She is a star in the making.
Griff Rhys Jones as Harpagon The Miser gives a master class in comic acting. A cross between Ebenezer Scrooge, Shylock and Richard The Third he gets the balance just right between the grotesque and the comic. His walk when trying to impress Marianne is half Malvolio and half Richard the Third. At once funny and ridiculous. In a clear nod to Joe Orton’s “Loot,” he removes his dentures and offers them to the people sitting in the front row. And when he removes his wig, made of his own hair to save money, he reveals the sad old man under the mask.
Lee Mack (Maitre Jacques) plays five different roles as the Miser refuses to pay for more servants. Drawing on the comic genius of Eric Morecombe and Tommy Cooper, Lee Mack is brilliant. In one scene he reprises Tommy Cooper’s famous hat changing routine. As Harpagon calls for his butler, chef, footman, driver so Lee Mack changes hat and answers his master. It is pure genius. He shows his debt to Eric Morecombe over and over again. For example when Cleante (Ryan Gage) refers to a fella in the audience, Lee looks down, looks directly at Cleante and says a la Eric Morecombe “That’s not a fella.” There is some wonderful physical comedy as when Lee has a hole in the back of his trousers through which can be seen his bare buttocks. He takes a leaf out of Scarlet O’Hara’s playbook in “Gone With The Wind “ and makes himself a suit out of the curtains to save money. Except he leaves the outline of the suit on the still hanging curtains.
Ryan Gage’s Restoration fop Cleante is delightful. His exaggerated camp movements across the stage are hilariously funny. He has a wonderful scene with Harpagon, a la The Marx Brothers “The Party Of The First Part,” playing on the confusion of marrying Marianne or Anne. “Marry Anne, no you marry Marianne, and I’ll Marry Anne”. Its very funny.
The Miser is a joy to see. It’s unashamedly entertaining, funny, clever, witty and joyful.