Rhys Jones works hard to rile the audience, but he is underwhelming in a role that is only propped up by overly repetitive jokes. Molière’s original comedy does mock theatrical conventions, making fun of ‘asides’ and gesturing towards the audience. But the constant banter with the audience from both Rhys Jones and particularly Lee Mack is only a little funny at first, and quickly becomes exhausting. Mack is more a comedian than an actor, uneasy in the role, and constantly breaks his thinly drawn character to deliver punchlines that rarely land.
It is somewhat understandable that both resort to playing to the audience, because this fast-moving plot moves remarkably slowly. As Harpagon schemes to marry off his children to old but rich suitors and himself to a much younger woman, his frugal party-planning is drawn to a halt when his fortune is stolen. Much of the first act is muddled by exposition and explanation of characters, peppered with some French. And even then a recap is provided at the beginning of the second act. The climax – itself a conventional discovery of lost relatives separated in shipwreck – is unrewarding, and a tacky and unimaginative hip-hop dance number finishes off the evening.
Alice Power’s set is a redeeming feature, a once stately but now dilapidated home with routinely freefalling drywall (all serendipitously timed to hit the heads of those on stage). And Katy Wix as Elise, and Gage as her brother, do better than most to confidently portray their characters, both with humorous speech impediments. But it’s Ellie White who is funniest as Marianne, love interest of Cléante and Harpagon, delivering all her lines with endlessly posh long vowels.
The Miser at the Garrick makes it clear that laughter is the priority above intelligent insight, with Mack shouting ‘We’re not the bloody Royal Court’. But with jokes that are uninspired and more than a little tired, more attention to Molière’s social commentary would have been warmly welcomed.
|What||The Miser, Garrick Theatre review|
2 Charing Cross Road, London, WC2H 0HH | MAP
|Nearest tube||Leicester Square (underground)|
10 Mar 17 – 10 Jun 17, 7:30 PM – 9:30 PM
|Website||Click here to book via Culture Whisper and See Tickets|