Writer: Liz Lochhead
Director: Tony Cownie
Reviewer: Dominic Corr
Molière, for some, has a more solid place in the hearts and minds of Scottish playwrights than that of the Bard or Burns themselves. It would certainly seem the case for Liz Lochhead who returns to the Lyceum during its 50th anniversary to deliver what is a love letter, not simply to Molière, but to comedy and the Scots language itself.
The life of Molière was, to be frank, convoluted. Sex, debt, royalty and religion all played a part in moulding what would make Molière one of the most well-regarded comedic writers in European literature. As one of Scotland’s most accomplished poets and playwrights, Liz Lochhead has discussed the importance of Molière’s influence on her works in the past. Who better to create a comedy based on the life of one of western culture’s most influential comedic playwrights?
Lochhead’s script finds an intrinsic connection between the French roots of Molière and the ardent drive for humour in Scottish theatre. At the heart of both cultures is a deep-seated joy in lampooning the darker impulses of life, punishing the bourgeoisie and decadence while applauding the working class intellectual. Indeed, Lochhead stays true to Molière by gifting the audience the character of Toinette who is portrayed superbly by Molly Innes. Akin to Molière’s original, it is the ‘simple’ working class maid who grounds tonight’s production. While lust, deceit and brandy threaten the remainder of the cast, it is Toinette’s insight and sarcasm which guides us through the production.
Jimmy Chisolm and Siobhan Redmond’s chemistry as the titular Molière and Madeleine Bèjart demonstrate everything Cownie and Lochhead wish to demonstrate about the theatre. The two manage to communicate their characters wants, or indeed confusions over wants, flawlessly. The attention to detail and range of emotions speak volumes to their dedication to the craft. In true Molière fashion, they become their respective characters laying life out in front of the audience in all of its unexplainable glory.
The performances are almost universally solid throughout, though Sarah Miele as Menouis a little off; the talent is there in the young star, but amid such vivid personalities, there isn’t enough fire or misery for us to truly connect with her. Steven McNicoll and Nicola Roy as the Du Parcs should be singled out for their ability to wring a giggle from movement and facial expression alone and Nicola Rey brilliantly mixes the dustings of feminism in the text brilliantly with a soft touch to her humour, though she isn’t afraid to bring down the hammer of comedy when needed.
Molière wrote for the King. Lochhead writes for the people, there’s a great understanding of Molière’s life and works within Thon Man Molière. More than that though Lochhead notes the imperfections in Molière’s works and posits that like life, there are no sudden happy endings, despite our desire for such.
Thon Man Molière is a remarkable blend of French-Scottish humour and genius which can be enjoyed by royalty, nobility, the gentry and yes, even the rabble.
Runs until 11 June 2016 |Image:Mihaela Bodlovic