The Hypochondriac

Written by Molière
Adapted by Roger McGough
Liverpool Playhouse (19th June – 18th July 2009)

Reviewed by Vicky Brocklehurst

Roger McGough's translation remains a witty stab at the dishonesty of the medical institution and the self-obsessed middle classes to which they bow.

Wealthy hypochondriac Argan (Clive Francis) wants his airhead daughter Angelique to wed a doctor despite her infatuation with Cleante (Jake Harders). Her sharp servant Toinette (Leanne Best) saves the day by faking Argan’s death, exposing his new wife Beline as a gold digger, and proving that above all love ensures good health.

The production was slick, well observed and beautiful composed. The cast obediently fluttered around the stage obeying a complex set of directions, and the verse was well observed. Francis was toughly supported in his
majestic performance. The shows comedy gave a fun modern feel thought it was set in period.

However the show lacked coherence and accessibility. Its key principals (human obsession, the hypocrisy of the medical profession and class hierarchy) were clouded by multi-layered observations and excessive referencing.What is a simple yet universally themed farce became difficult to engage with.

The first half meandered rather than ran; cues were a fraction slow and each line held weight preventing free flow of text. Performances from Best and Raikes were skilful yet veered towards demonstrative. One felt the actors were giving so much energy to each individual unit of action that the overall clarity of the plot lost focus.

Mike Britton’s set - a sparse pale wooded interior hiding only a rainbow of potions - cleverly reinforced the concept that people mask their obsessions, and was choice in quality and style but perhaps lacked soul.

Mollier’s play, written in 1660, exposes the medical institution as one which capitalises on people’s insecurities. It has relevance today, as the pharmaceutical industry stands as highly lucrative, sometimes at the expense of cheaper holistic alternatives.

Bodinetz's production is vivacious, intelligent and funny, however if it tried a fraction less it would have been more enjoyable.

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