Laughs from la France


Moliere’s Tartuffe, Alnwick Playhouse, Friday, September 2.

THE main character may be an imposter, but this latest production from the Northumberland Theatre Company certainly delivered what it promised.

I must confess that the opening minutes did make me wonder if it was going to be too zany and farcical for my taste, but I soon settled into it and the modern flourishes make it feel much more natural.

By the end I, and as far as I could tell, the entire audience had thoroughly enjoyed ourselves with jokes, from edgy innuendo to satire, flying from left, right and centre.

This was a great night out and we were well entertained.

A large part of the praise must go to Stewart Howson for his brilliant adaptation of what is a 17th century French comedy.

Translating humour from a different era and country and making it relevant to an audience today is no mean feat, but his version managed to mix the feel of the original with modern punch-lines and North East slang, while keeping it all in verse.

There were also some neat post-modern touches to allow the cast to cover all the roles - no need to hide the changes so make it part of the action.

But, of course, it is the cast that brings a script to life and they, too, were excellent.

The whole performance was so enjoyable and well-received by the audience that I almost feel mean picking people out for praise, but personally I most enjoyed Louis Roberts as the prancing and preening eponymous rogue and the formidable Madame Pernelle, Eleanor Dennison as the no-nonsense Geordie servant Dorine and Alan Park, who was pitch perfect as both Valere and Cleante.

But this truly was an ensemble production and I’m sure if I went again tonight I would pick different favourite roles.

As with when I saw the most recent InterACT performance at the Playhouse, the overwhelming feeling I had when I came away was disappointment that this type of theatre is exactly what the Arts Council should be supporting, particularly in rural areas like ours, and it is exactly what is being hit by the funding cuts.

Do yourself a favour, buy a ticket, laugh out loud for nearly two hours and know that you are keeping theatre alive in Northumberland.

By Ben O’Connell

Future performance dates in Northumberland:

Tonight: Alnwick Playhouse

Thursday, September 15: Chatton Village Hall

Saturday, September 17: Glanton Village Hall

Thursday, October 13: Wall Village Hall

Friday, October 14: Newton & Bywell Community Hall

Tuesday, October 25: Hindmarsh Hall, Alnmouth

Wednesday, October 26: Kirkwhelpington Village Hall

Thursday, October 27: The Maltings, Berwick

Friday, October 28: Morpeth Town Hall

Saturday, October 29: Longhirst Village Hall