The Doctor (In Spite Of Himself) | le poulet terrible

The Doctor (in Spite of Himself) is a modern Australian translation of one Molière's shorter plays. It’s a farcical attack on the medics of Molière's time, who would trick unsuspecting patients with quackery and impressive, if not accurate, language. The play centres around the character of a woodcutter (Footscray council worker) named Sganarelle (Michael Cahill) who finds himself mistaken for a doctor when his wife plays a trick on him. His new patient Lucinde, the daughter of a wealthy businessman, is faking her illness to keep from being married off to some undesirable of her father’s choosing. The ultimate cure, of course, is for Lucinde to be united with her true love, which occurs amongst numerous digs at the medical profession.

Translating a 1666 farce for a modern Australian audience inundated with some of the best comedy acts from around the globe for the Melbourne Comedy Festival is quite an ask, and Le Poulet Terrible give it their all, I’ll give them that. This production, however, really doesn’t hit its stride until the very end. The Dog Theatre, located at the back of the Dancing Dog Café, is a very small space for a farce, which means that the volume and the energy from the cast needs to be just right and, more importantly, unified, and it isn’t. Despite two stand-out performances from Natalie Carr (as Sganarelle’s wife and Lucinde’s lover), and David Kambouris (as Valere the henchman), it’s obvious that the lack of unity is more about the translation and direction than the performances. The entire cast is strong, but some (Carr and Kambouris particularly) have a strong handle on the art of farce and others don’t, and again, this seems to come down to a matter of direction. It just doesn’t work having one character in full period French costume and others in stubbies and Ugg boots.

It’s a tricky thing to stage a period farce with all of its inherent sexist stereotypes and still present something new and refreshing. There are moments in The Doctor where Le Poulet Terrible achieve this – the dance number for one – but those moments are slightly too few. For a Comedy Festival event, the audience was oddly quiet.

le poulet terrible presents
The Doctor (In Spite Of Himself)
By Moliere

Directed by Alice Bishop

Venue: The Dog Theatre | Dancing Dog Café/Bar, 42a Albert St, Footscray (Melways Ref: 42 C6 close to Footscray Train Station)
Dates: 2 - 18 April / Preview April 1
Times: 8pm Tuesday to Saturday
Tickets: Tickets: $23.50 / $16.50
Tightarse Tuesdays / Preview $15
Bookings: / 9639 0096

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