Writer: Moliere, new version by Martin Sherman
Director: Nancy Meckler
Reviewer: Tom Finch
An old man is hoarding his wealth, unaware that his two children have both fallen in love and are planning to run away with their partners. Meanwhile his matchmaker is busy finding him a bride and his staff are turning against him. It’s all good old standard Moliere farce and this new production now playing at The Watermill, Newbury ramps up the fun and squeezes every last laugh out of Martin Sherman’s adaptation.
A small, young cast of just seven actors take on all the rôles (something which is frequently referred to throughout the show, earning some of the biggest laughs of the evening). Alex Mann plays the eponymous miser and although 40 years younger than the part he is playing he is the epitome of a skinflint grumpy old man. His great speech in the second half where he bemoans the loss of his cashbox is a master class in comedy and his rapport with the audience is second to none. The rest of the cast all play several rôles. In particular Eliza Collings gives a great turn as Frosine, the greedy matchmaker; her performance is a definite highlight. If some of the other cast members begin slightly unsure they soon find their footing and by the end of the evening all have had a moment to shine.
On the largely empty stage, the set adorned with chains, padlocks and secret panels, leaves plenty of space for physical comedy. There are some very funny clowning moments in which the audience is treated to the see the hijinks of what occurs in the servants’ areas of the house. Although these moments are very funny there were at odds with the rest of the play. It seems like a slightly wasted opportunity to not incorporate more of this (evidently very popular) comedy in with the rest of the production.
At points this script does suffer from too many words and not enough action. Jokes are stretched out slightly too long and some scenes seem not to go anywhere. A paired down script and a shorter running time could have propelled this production into the giddy heights of ecstasy one enjoys at a brilliant farce. Instead the evening is more of a slow burner until the humour is fully unleashed in the final 30 minutes.
It should be noted that this production was part of The Watermill’s ‘Freewheel’ programme in which productions are mounted using young, emerging talent both on stage and off. Judging by the warm reaction given by the audience at this show, this initiative is clearly successful and long may it continue.
Runs until 18th May 2013