The Misanthrope (The Comedy Theatre, 16th January 2010)

The production looked like a very traditional proscenium arch comedy with its elaborate set.  The plot contained all the elements of a farce, the confusion, character types  and  even some entering and exiting through different doors in the set.  There was a play on the fact that it was a modern-day production of a seventeenth-century text.  Not so subtle devices were  used to make the historical links.  For example, the music transformed from seventeenth century to contemporary dance music.  At the end of the play all the cast, except Alceste  (Damian Lewis),  were dressed in historical costumes, on the pretence that they were dressed for a fancy dress party.  Characters talked in rhymes, some of which weren’t that obvious and the speech flowed along.  Some rhymes were surprising and other rhymes jarred which made me listen even more to try and hear them for their amusing effect.  At time, the language became strange and very theatrical and I felt I was taken into an unreal comedy world, to the point that, strangely it felt like I was watching a parody of a farce.

The plot was based around celebrity and our celebrity obsessed culture.   I’m sure this was deliberately ironic in casting Keira Knighley as Jennifer, which for me added to the feel that I was watching parody of a farce, because casting was asking me to bring references from outside the play world.   However, the cast was a strong cast overall and indeed Knightley’s programme biography is by far the shortest, though her film work is what has brought her to the attention of a wider audience outside the theatre.   I felt that Knightley didn’t have same presence on stage as she does on film.  Alongside Kelly Price  (as Ellen) and Tara FitzGerald (as Marcia), the women in the play were very funny and central as a group to the success of this production.  Damian Lewis was an excellent as Alceste.  Standing out from the rest of the cast, he was able to rant and pronounce on moral standards and at the end of the play through his own stubbornness was left isolated from the other characters.  

Previews and Reviews

The Misanthrope (The Telegraph)
The Misanthrope in The Observer
The Telegraph – Damian Lewis The Misanthrope interview
The Misanthrope in The Financial Times
The Misanthrope (The Stage)
The Misanthrope (Official London Theatre Guide)
The Misanthrope (First Night in The Independent)

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