Tartuffe

 

Declan Hughes's adaptation of Moliere's bitterest comedy to contemporary south Co Dublin was received with rapturous cheers at its opening on Wednesday.

However, both the original author and the adapter had set significant obstacles prior to the enthusiastic reception. To start with, the adaptation was far from a complete rewrite, leaving the bulk of the dialogue in its original rhythms and constructions - a far cry from the lingo of contemporary Dublin, even if the insertion of some excellent one-liners and modern colloquialisms gave occasional impressions of the place today.

Secondly, Moliere's original, for all its moral ambiguities, is by no means an exact template of today's Ireland, and this may have been what led the director, Lynne Parker, to conceive and stage this version of the play more as a pantomime than as a moral farce.

And so, despite the constant and participative presence, well-lit behind a scrim on stage, of a live trio playing variations on 17th century music, and a general acting style which relies more on declamation than on any discernible social subtleties, the show earned its acclaim at the final curtain. However, there were some patches of heavy going in which the willing suspension of disbelief was seriously challenged.

There were some token changes to some of the names. However, Tartuffe remains Tartuffe throughout and this and many other factors, like the trio playing the music, keep insisting that we are not watching a contemporary Irish satire.

Kandis Cook's setting confirms that we are neither in France nor Ireland and Paul Keogan's excellent lighting does likewise.

The acting throughout is energetic and committed with Owen Roe's highly farcical Oscar effectively and irrationally apoplectic most of the time, and Andrew Bennett's Tartuffe suavely sinister all of the time.

Michael Devaney's David (Oscar's son) provides the funniest and most definitive DART accent of all time and Cathy Belton's Emily (Oscar's upright wife) manages a beautiful ambiguity of purpose as she sets about seducing Tartuffe.

Kelly Campbell is a wonderfully wound-up ball of adolescent hysteria as Marianne. And who will forget Des Cave's magnificently pompous Chief Superintendent.

Runs until February 3rd (except December 25th and 26th) with 2.30 p.m. matinees each Saturday. To book phone 01-878 7222.