Upon entering the Heath Ledger theatre, we are met with a towering vision of suburbia, as if lifted from
the Scarborough waterfront the magnificent two story set immediately transports us to familiar territory, Perth 2016. What is not familiar though is the dialogue, a wonderful mix of wit and poetry, spoken by the cast with commanding knowledge of its meaning and tone.
The story begins with Orgon (Steve Turner) away in the country, and his family discussing their new housemate, the suspiciously pious and innocent Tartuffe (Darren Gilshenan). Orgon returns from his trip far more interested in Tartuffe than his own ill wife Elmire (Alison Van Reeken), this infuriates and frustrates his family as it is clear he has been hoodwinked by the silver-tongued Tartuffe. When Orgon reveals his plan to postpone the wedding of his daughter Mariane (Tessa Lind) to Valere (James Sweeny) and instead wed Mariane to
Tartuffe. In steps servant Dorine (Emily Weir) with a plan to show Tartuffes true nature, she arranges for Tartuffe and Elmire to meet in the living room while Orgons only son Damis (Alex Williams) is watching in secret from upstainrs. Instead of believing his son, Orgon disinherits Damis and gives his whole estate to Tartuffe! Elmires brother Cleante (Hugh Parker) attempts to reason with Tartuffe over cocktails in the backyard, but unsurprisingly Tartuffe refuses. (Much) More is revealed as the family try to convince Orgon of the true nature of Tartuffe
The characters reflected people we see every day, from Alex Williams aggressive Damis who wouldn’t feel out of place walking Northbridge streets at night to Tessa Linds social media savvy Mariane, as well as the outspoken Madame Pernelle (Jenny Davis) and cautious Cleante.
The cast were outstanding, Darren Gilshenan stepped into the comical Tartuffe with ease whilst Steve Turner’s convincing Orogon matched well with Alison Van Reekens revealing Elimre. Emily Weirs confidant and critical performance as Dorine made for an outstanding Black Swan debut, also special mention to James Sweeney’s mischievous moustache.
Justin Flemings adaptation of the Moliere classic reflects both our current, and current at the time of Frances King Louis XIV’s, fascination with those in our society who swindle good people from their earnings. It is a story that wouldn’t be out of place on A Current Affair or Today Tonight, a fact not lost on the playwright. The dialogue, filled with great Aussie slang and appropriate profanity is contemporary in its delivery and a joy to listen to.
Richard Roberts set and costumes are a testament to outstanding communication between a production team and allow the audience to dive into Kate Cherry’s vision. The set and costumes are simple but grand in the statement they make.
In Kate Cherry’s final Black Swan production, she has ensured the audience remain captivated to a story and dialogue 352 years old and made it feel as though it was written today. The movement and transition between scenes was colourful and reminded one of a television commercial break, giving the audience both a chance to digest the scene and to anticipate the exchange to come.
An outstanding production and one worth catching.
A co-production between Black Swan State Theatre Company & Queensland Theatre.
DIRECTOR: Kate Cherry; SET & COSTUME DESIGNER: Richard Roberts; LIGHTING DESIGNER: David Murray; SOUND DESIGNER/COMPOSER: Tony Brumpton
Photo credit: Daniel James Grant