The Exchange Theatre takes up residence at the Drayton Arms until July 8th with their production of Moliere’s THE MISANTHROPE
Costumed in modern dress and surrounded with high tech equipment this production makes relevant this enduring classic as it serves to explore the idea of gossip, innuendo and ultimately fake news.
Post election, and it is it seems fitting that in a week where we have seen one political leader resigning because of his conscience, another defining a manifesto with a repetitive sound bite and the third fending off a tabloid character assignation. The truth is getting lost within increasingly speedy but shallow communication. -Instagramme, snapchat, White House briefings, Presidential tweets or political slogans in general – we are increasingly fed versions of the truth – alternative facts!
The Exchange production presents Alceste resisting things fake as he challenges hypocrisy and flattery. However, there is a cost – friends and lovers are not amused as he rails for the truth to be spoken. Even his loyal friend Philinte is pushed aside and the woman he loves is demeaned and reduced by the truth as her free spirit is curbed. Simeon Okes gives a sound and bumptious performance, as Philinte as he drives the play forward, wrestling with the challenge of dropping courtly manners at the insistence of Alceste because “to esteem everyone is to esteem no one”.
Designer dressed; this production is technically stylish with its use of mobile phones making entertaining use of facetime as well as texts, photos and general surveillance. All this serves to remind us that the obsession with tittle-tattle is not solely a 17th century pastime. Setting scenes in the recording studio and creating the chat-show was inspired and hinted at our over indulgence with celebrities and personalities. In the chat-show scene, it was particularly powerful to have Acase and Orente as studio warm-ups – encouraging the audience to be excited and interested in an interview full of gossip and barbs and that suddenly made the divide between the centuries minimal.
Although, dialogue was well paced in the main, the vocal delivery was, at times, weak. Voices needed to be more robust, rounded and rich in tone to capture the fever of finding the truth and dispelling the fake. The rhyming structure added a liveliness to the delivery of the lines, if a little disjointed and hesitant in places. However, there is much to commend in this production – if for no other reason the company perform the play in French alternate nights!
A play (intelligently directed by David Furlong) stands the test of time – creatively revisited by the Exchange Theatre – a bilingual company who have illuminated THE MISANTHROPE, making it relevant for our troubling times. It runs until July 8th and there is no reason that this interesting evening should only be seen by the Francophiles of South Kensington – Laissez-vous !
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