"Original take on Moliere masterpiece"
by Matthew Partridge for remotegoat on 19/06/17

Moliere’s “The Misanthrope” is justly regarded as one of the most significant French plays of all time, so Exchange Theatre’s production has a lot to live up to. Television presenter Alceste (David Furlong) has the world at his feet, as well as the hearts of Eliante and Arsinoe (Fanny Dulin). However, he’s disgusted at the shallowness and falseness of contemporary life, yet still in love with the shallow Celimene (Anoushka Ravanshad). Ignoring the entreaties of his friend Philinte (Simeon Oakes), Alceste refuses to praise Oronte’s (Palmyre) awful song-poem, setting off a chain of events that leads to profession and personal ruin. As well as Oronte, Alceste’s vapid colleagues Clitandre (James Buttling) and Acaste (Luca Fontaine) also have their eyes on Celimene.

Richard Wilbur’s stilted translation, the bilingual nature of the cast and the slow pace of acting mean that the play doesn’t flow as well as it should and lasts nearly three hours, despite significant edits. However, these faults are redeemed by the clever decision to set it in the world of television. This allows several of the set pieces to be staged as TV programs. For example, the cat fight between Celimene and Arsinoe becomes a very plausible chat show. While Furlong (who also directs) has opted to portray Alceste as world-weary rather than angry, this makes his final monologue much more poignant. Although purists may disagree, it is an entertaining and original take on the play.

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