Griffin Theatre Company and Bell Shakespeare have collaborated this year to bring us an exquisite production of The Literati. It’s an adaptation by Justin Fleming of Molière’s Les Femmes Savantes and at once is a classic, staying true to Molière signature wit and grandeur, and also a new, contemporary Australian piece, full of colloquialisms and a stellar local cast.
It’s a simple, predictable story of family contention and the right to choose. The youngest daughter of rich parents, sweet, uncomplicated Juliette (Miranda Tapsell) wants to marry Clinton (Jamie Oxenbould), who is equally uncomplicated but less well-off. Christopher, Juliette’s father (also, amusingly, played by Oxenbould) supports the match.
But mother Philomena (Caroline Brazier), indomitable and formidable, is against it. She has her sights set on another match for Juliette — Tristan Tosser (Gareth Davies), a self-indulgent poet. Juliette turns to older sister Amanda (Kate Mulvany) for support, but at first finds none. Amanda, an old flame of Clinton’s, is of the same elitist mind as her mother, celebrating the higher literary talent.
Fleming has already proved himself a deft hand at translating and updating Molière — Bell Shakespeare’s glorious production of Molière’s Tartuffe (also starring Mulvany) won many hearts a couple of years ago. With this one, Fleming has stayed true to Molière’s “piss-take on pretentious literary conceit.” His script is full of alternating rhyming schemes and jokes, and is linguistically dextrous like no other.
And to handle it, you need a flawless cast. Here, Director Lee Lewis has delivered.
Tapsell is suitably wide-eyed and lovely as Juliette, but makes more of an impact as unsavoury housemaid Martina. Oxenbould provides one of the most memorable moments of the night, with a brilliant one-man dialogue between his two characters, made all the more hilarious as he rotates furiously on Sophie Fletcher’s revolving set. Brazier cuts an imposing figure on stage, with her never-ending limbs and commanding presence. She’s terrifyingly elitist as mother Philomena, and provides a much-needed calmness as Dr Vadius, the voice of reason. Davies is infuriating as the pretentious, selfish poet who needs a good slap in the face. His performance is remarkably detailed and observed, which makes it all the more irritating. As Amanda, Mulvany is fantastically bizarre. She finds every possible moment for comedy, whether it’s awkwardly (hilariously) negotiating the revolve or trying to use the furniture correctly.
Lewis and her team have created an unforgettable piece of theatre, and the opportunity to see it in Griffin’s tiny space should not be missed. It’s a whirlwind of intelligent, witty and often ridiculous comedy, with exceptional performances that bring Fleming’s words deliciously to life.
Alana Kaye – Theatre Now
27 May – 16 July 2016
Previews: 27, 28, 30 & 31 May, 1 June
Monday – Saturday 7pm
Saturdays 2pm & 7pm
Tuesdays 1pm & 7pm
Venue: SBW Stables Theatre
Theatre Company: Bell Shakespeare and Griffin Theatre Company
Juliet and Clinton are in love. Guileless, sweet, all-encompassing love. However, love is not without its impediments. Standing in the way of their eternal happiness are Juliet’s mother and sister, whose disapproval is of the most high-brow kind.
Griffin is doing a Moliére! Why? Because that great Australian playwright, Justin Fleming, has audaciously brought this one screaming into 21st century Australia and it is fabulous. We love it.
It’s sassy, it’s silly, it’s Sydney.
And, it’s also a glorious new co-production with Bell Shakespeare, directed by Griffin Artistic Director Lee Lewis, and starring award-winning playwright and actor Kate Mulvany (Tartuffe, Julius Caesar, The Great Gatsby, Beached).
A co-production with Bell Shakespeare
Director: Lee Lewis
Cast: Caroline Brazier, Gareth Davies, Jamie Oxenbould, Kate Mulvany, Miranda Tapsell
Co-Composers & Sound Designers Max Lambert and Roger Lock
Designer Sophie Fletcher
Lighting Designer Verity Hampson
Concession, Senior, Preview, Groups 8+ $48
Under 30 $38
Transaction fees of $4 for online bookings and $5 for phone bookings apply.