Theatre Review: Tartuffe at the Canal Cafe , Little Venice


Tartuffe poster

Could The Paradigm Theatre company be the hardest working fringe company in London? They are back with their fourth production this season with Tartuffe by none other than Moliere and already have two more productions lined up for the Autumn. This 17th century French classic is given a quirky cabaret feel at Little Venice’s Canal Cafe.

The story is of a well to do man named Orgon (Chukwudi Onwere) who befriends Tartuffe (Jeremy Gagan) a man who gives the impression of being a devout and pious man. Orgon asks Tartuffe to live with him and be a spiritual guide for his family. However Tartuffe isn’t interested in giving advice on their moral dilemmas but is more interested in Orgon’s wife, Elmire (Holly Clark). Orgon has other plans for Tartuffe and wants him to wed his daughter Mariane (Phoebe Batteson-Brown), but she’s already engaged to the young Valère (John Rogers). The family soon sets up a plot to catch him out and show Orgon that his beloved moral guide really his no morals at all!

Moliere’s 17th century play is quite a romp but contextualising it in a prohibition era cabaret, was a bit of a risk. Though setting classical theatre in a more modern age does have its appeal, it seemed like something was missing in the set up. The Canal Cafe is a perfect space for a cabaret experience( at any minute you do wonder when Liza Minnelli might come out doing high kicks) but in this production we could have had more of Tom Ward -Thomas’ jazz piano standards throughout the piece . As the Loyal The Cabaret Owner , we really only get his musical stylings in the beginning and a bit towards the end. I did appreciate the staging Director Cat Robey chose as she had actors interacting with the audience and actually sitting in the audience as well.

The 1664 text was given a cutting and bit of modernising by Arstitic Director Sarah Pitard and was best played in the hands of Katherine Rodden, who showed throughout that she had complete control over both her character and the language. She plays Dorine, the servant , with great pizzaz. Costume Designer Shoni Wilkinson had her all dolled up in the proverbial sexy French maid costume, as she pranced around the stage sticking her nose in the affairs of Orgon and the rest of the people at his establishment. I thought Jeremy Gagan’s Tartuffe was endearing and also enjoyed the confidence with which Dare Emmanuels played Elmire’s  brother Cleante.

It’s an off-beat and fun way of seeing Moliere’s most treasured comedy.  I imagine a bit further in the run it’ll pick up the energy and the cast will truly bring the house down.    Moliere’s Tartuffe is on at the Canal Cafe in the very lovely Little Venice till  27th of April 2013.

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About Melissa Palleschi

Melissa Palleschi New York actress living in London and trained in Italy, New York and here in London at the Actors Studio. She is also a founding member of the Planktonic Players, who made their London debut at Camden Fringe Festival in 2012.


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