The Impostor

Written and Directed by Shôn Dale-Jones
Adapted from 'Tartuffe' by Molière
Everyman Theatre (20th-22nd April 2006)

Reviewed by Adam Ford

In the seventeenth century, when Molière’s ‘Tartuffe’ was first performed, it was the subject of a row between different sections of the French ruling classes. The king himself was quite a big fan, but the religious ‘dévots’ in his court saw it as an attack on their beliefs and position in society, which was already being undermined by the scientific Enlightenment and the emerging commercial class. In the end the play was banned. But what has this got to do with now? Well quite a lot, since of course people still use deception to get their hands on money and power. If you look closely, you can definitely see a creepy Tony Blair smile dance across the repulsive impostor’s face.

Mr Fleming (Trond-Erik Vassdal) introduces himself a solicitor, who has arrived at a family home to read the will of the recently deceased father at high noon. But since there’s nearly two hours before then, the family need a way to pass the time. For some reason they choose to re-enact the moment they were nearly thrown out on the streets. A conman had arrived penniless, but soon managed to seduce the master of the house by telling him exactly what he wanted to hear.

Shôn Dale-Jones has ‘freely adapted’ Tartuffe, adding the occasional modern twist. In one particularly sharp observation, the priest of Molière’s original is now a self help guru peddling quick fix ‘cures’ which have nothing to do with the real world. The cast spin round in perfectly organised chaos, illustrating the emotional turmoil of the play whilst not taking anything away from the often farcical comedy. All the performers deserve special praise, but Vassdal would be a star on any stage, and Ben Frimston as Charles brings flawless timing to his Tim Nice But Dim impression.

Maybe the second part drags on a bit too long, and perhaps there are a few too many dances, but this is a superb production which is ideally suited to the Everyman. It will upset the purer than thou, but then it always did.

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