Excusez-moi! Monsieur Molière has had a makeover! One of theatre's greatest satires, Tartuffe, goes Paritai Drive style. Read on for our review.
Vanessa Ellingham
Published on September 19, 2011


Here is our review of the play.

In the same way an over-tanned heiress gorges herself after the latest detox diet, Tartuffe, a raunchy adaptation of Moliere’s 17th century satire thumbing its nose at religious hypocrisy, ravenously gobbles up Auckland’s nouveau riche. This is Paritai Drive, poolside.

Take the plunge and you’ll find yourself in the backyard of Orgon (played by Cameron Rhodes), a pretentious tycoon all-too-ready to sign his life away to Paolo Rotondo’s charming version of Tartuffe, the televangelist taking up the spare room.

Set against a garish patterned backdrop harking back to the play’s origins, the family’s backyard is ostentatious, complete with white shag carpet slamming into the side of the fluoro pink swimming pool, animal rings bobbing about inside. This is set designer John Verryt’s take on Auckland’s A-listers, complemented by lighting designer Brad Gledhill’s incessant need to bathe the cast and their backyard in various neons throughout the piece (and that’s not to say it isn’t necessary; the lighting really seals the deal). With poptastic beats à la Katy Perry blasting from the implied mansion, fleur de lis never been so spangly.

Theatre here is a melange of wordplay tainted with amateur franglais, astonishingly OTT characterisations and just the right amount of sexed-up mayhem you would know to expect from the houses you’ve only ever stood outside.

Orgon , for all his conniving ability to aid that Greek football owner from Wellington in the latest scandal (you’re fired!), is ultimately a sucker at the hands of Tartuffe, who frolics about the stage bombastically exalting his own “holier than thou”. Charming, and wielding a lengthy list of exotic names of the children he singlehandedly saved back in Africa (mon dieu!), Tartuffe has Orgon in awe. Orgon’s  blindness is deliciously pathetic, all too caught up in the throes of religious passion to spot Tartuffe cavorting with his wife, Elmire (Theresa Healey), who we first spot injecting her cheeks at the beginning of the show.

Mariane, the heiress daughter promised to Tartuffe and performed by Sophie Henderson, plays the pitiable sacrificial lamb. Strutting around in her fluoro swimsuit, her butt eventually dusted in a light mash of white carpet fluff stuck with clingy chlorine, she flaps and flails, attempting the ubiquitous tanning tummy roll on the unsecure foundation of a flimsy lilo, legs in the air.

Perhaps the most telling performance is that of Mia Blake, the Samoan maid and the voice of reason, about ready to jandal thwack the next palagi who turns to Tartuffe’s side, or “aksk” her what to do, gotit?!

The height of the show must be the ménage-à-quatre performed in the pool, four adults (one religious) romping amongst inflatable toys to none other than Khia’s My Neck, My Back. But alas, as in any good musical, as soon as the song ends, it’s back to business. The villain must be outed!

It’s a bit wordy in parts, but the actors’ histrionic portrayals of their 17th century counterparts are as enjoyable in the scenes overridden by Katy Perry on 100 as they are when it’s all words. Louise Fox’s adaptation shifts focus slightly to those duped as opposed to those duping, but Moliere’s themes prove their eternal relevance.

French vocab officially exhausted, dahling.


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