The Miser by Molière was written in 1668, but the tale of this early Scrooge maintains a disturbing relevance. This modern version by Sean Foley and Phil Porter has already been on a national tour before setting up shop at the Garrick Theatre.
Monsieur Harpagon is one of the wealthiest men in Paris, but he refuses to spend any of his money: his filthy clothes are old-fashioned and his house is crumbling to bits. His two children Cléante and Élise feel the effects of his parsimony: they are both in love with lowly individuals and their father wants them to marry aged persons with pots of money. The pair must put their heads together and try and get what they want, and the resulting plot is convoluted and gloriously silly.
The cast are in period-style costume but the modern jokes and references don’t seem out of place. Griff Rhys-Jones plays Harpagon and seems to delight in his character’s disgusting nature. Ryan Gage revels in his foppish role as Cléante, while Katy Wix channels Miranda Richardson’s Queen Elizabeth as Élise. In fact, the whole thing is like a seventeenth century Blackadder, with Lee Mack as a more intelligent version of Baldrick. He has several roles in Harpagon’s household requiring him to wear a number of different hats – literally. His irreverence and audience asides get some of the biggest laughs of the evening. I really liked the way much of the play was directed straight at the audience – rendering us complicit in the dramatic events happening onstage.
It’s not a traditional production of the Molière classic, then, but it certainly seems to be in the spirit of his work – this was the opinion of the friend who came with me and who has actually seen the original. I had lots of fun watching it: definitely recommended.