Royal National Theatre (Lyttelton), London SE1
Opened 5 March, 2002

**** The translation is the real star of the show

Ranjit Bolt has an irrepressible way with verse; it can be too much sometimes, but his translation of Molière is always immense fun.

This is Bolt's second stab at Tartuffe, so he's written it in a different metre from his version of a decade ago (tetrameter couplets rather than pentameter). He's always immensely imaginative, and usually manages to get away with making a joke of his occasional slanginess. But the endless 4/4 thump can grow wearing, like the sound of a bass drum drifting up through the floorboards; this verse is more end-stopped than his usual, and some of the actors hit the rhythm even more heavily than it calls for.

Lindsay Posner's production, though, is a joy: light and tripping, unlike the design which literally spells out religious motifs in neon around the walls. David Threlfall is great fun as Orgon, who lets the pseudo-religious con-man Tartuffe into his home and almost into his wife's petticoats. Martin Clunes in the title role is a world away from the laddish portrayals we have come to know, and shows that even in those other parts his strength has always been in deadpanning the jokes. A fine production brought to life with a vivid, if sometimes too metronomic, translation.

Written for divento.com

Copyright © Ian Shuttleworth; all rights reserved.

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