BWW Review: MISANTHROPE, Camden People's Theatre

BWW Review: MISANTHROPE, Camden People's TheatreBWW Review: MISANTHROPE, Camden People's TheatreWe're in a newsroom full of clocks, screens and with a timeline of tweets that mix the gossip with the global, "facts" materialising and disappearing like will-o-the-wisps - very zeitgeisty!

Alceste is bickering with Philinte about his compulsion to tell the truth regardless of others' feelings - a bit "holier than thou", but a commitment to veracity that is as needed today as it was 350 years ago. Unfortunately - and we kind of knew this, but it was still good fun to watch - it gets him into trouble immediately, when he damns Oronte's execrable love sonnet with the unvarnished truth about its merits.

Since the pair are vying for the affections of flighty Célimène, offence is well and truly taken and the rivals in love find themselves rivals in court. Cue much musing on fidelity, honesty and whether men and women can ever really understand each other.

As in the original French (you can see that version on alternate dates, as the company stage the production's run in both languages), the words are spoken in verse. I enjoyed Serious Money in the 80s and one of the great pleasures of Hamilton is the invention of its lyrics, but once you gets the rhyming couplets into your brain, it can feel a little, well, Rupertish. Unfortunately, that really matters, because there is an avalanche of words in this two hour plus show and it's quite tricky to keep abreast of the meaty ideas and carousel of characters coming and going.

David Furlong (who also directs) gives us an Alceste full of indignation (though quite how he managed to rise to such prominence in the media with such strongly held views is a mystery). Anoushka Rava vamps it up as glamourpuss presenter, Célimène, flirting outrageously with all and sundry. There's also a showstealing cameo from Fanny Dulin as a Vivienne Westwood / Janet Street-Porter type older woman chiding Célimène before getting as good as she gave in return.

The production's problem is that the storytelling gets lost in the torrent of words. There's never a pause to allow reflection on who is saying what and to whom, because the rhymes keep coming. And, as is often the case with Shakespeare, though one doesn't expect it to be easy, perhaps it shouldn't be quite this hard.

Misanthrope continues (in English and French) at Camden People's Theatre until 7 July.

Photo by Anais Le Pape.

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From This Author Gary Naylor

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