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Restraint doesn’t seem to be a word which figures in director Sean Foley’s vocabulary. His free adaptation (with Phil Porter) of Moliere’s 17th century comic farce heaps visual gag upon visual gag and wisecrack upon wisecrack in a relentless stream of forced jocularity which is meant to make you laugh. And sometimes it does - but this is such a loud, brash, shouty production that it’s likely to alienate as many people as it pleases.

Griff Rhys Jones makes a seedy Harpagon, addressing the audience in his grubby britches fashioned from pigs’ intestines, his money-pinching heart only truly in love with his dosh, even though he has plans to wed the much younger Marianne – who just happens to be the girl his son Cléante wishes to marry. Meanwhile he’s found a rich elderly suitor for his daughter – who in turn only has eyes for Valère.

Stand-up comedian Lee Mack’s comic timing is spot on as a handful of servants (coachman, cook – even a hangman - each one identified by a swift change of hat).  But it’s all just too, too much – from a shovel-load of topical jokes to Cléante’s foppish blue and raspberry garb topped with a blonde poodle wig and an overdose of slapstick which reeks of pantomime. Less really can sometimes be more and at least Mathew Horne’s devoted Valère, played fairly straight, goes some way to keeping a lid on a production which, all too often, boils right over.

Garrick, Charing Cross Road, WC2H 0HH

Leicester Square tube

Until 3rd June 2017   

£25.00 - £65 + premium seats

garricktheatre.org/the-miser


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Theatre Review: The Miser
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