Ranjit Bolt's delightfully lithe and impish couplets ("Look at him, he's totally besotted – /If there's Tartuffomania, he's got it!") are done few favours by Peter Hall's obsession with having his actors end-stop spoken verse; it almost works with Shakespeare, but not with lines so clearly modern. Otherwise, this is a romp from beginning to end, as Paul Eddington's pantomime codger Orgon fails for the sanctimonious hypocrisy of Tartuffe – John Sessions, sounding like a Glaswegian "Wee Free" and dressed like David Essex c. 1975.
The size of the acting is dictated by Sessions: used to solo performances, he can't quite curb himself to give others room, and they have to strain to approach his near-manic level. Were the evening longer, or weightier by a feather, it would grow tiresome. But Hall doesn't delve; the play remains a bit of fluff (with the most gratuitous and sycophantic ending in the history of drama), so for two hours it doesn't matter. Great fun, that's all.
Written for City Limits magazine.
Copyright © Ian Shuttleworth; all rights reserved.
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