Left - Paul Blackwell. Photo - Wend Lear
Brink Productions has lost its mojo with its longwinded adaptation of Moliere’s The Hypochondriac.
The French comedy was first performed in 1673 and provides excellent grist for the mill in lampooning all that is pompous and ridiculous in the medical world.
Paul Galloway has adapted the 17th century script and the question that rises is “why”? The action still takes place in times when the medicine was hazardous to health. The dialogue may be more readily understandable but lacks the thrust and parry that made Moliere a great comedic reformist. Surely there is plenty of medical and pharmaceutical material for theatre of the absurd in the 21st century medicine.
Director Chris Drummond provides some humour in the humours, but often resorts to fart jokes and toilet humour, and is only saved by the design team’s visual elements and actor’s comedic talents.
Designer Wendy Todd and Lighting Designer Geoff Cobham have combined talents to provide set, costumes and lighting that are sepia-like and yet striking. The brown tones of the set and costumes are both earthy and rich, plain at times and then shimmering with life at others.
The Hypochondriac tells of neurotic miser Argan (Paul Blackwell) who manipulates all around him to ensure that he gets the very best treatment for the very least payment. Chaos results as the tables turn and others prey on his foolishness.
Blackwell is compelling as the ridiculous Argan, a role played by Moliere himself. Blackwells’ scenes with Jacqy Phillips as the irreverent maid provide some of the highlights of the night. Phillips is wonderful as the strident, scoffing Toinette, the perfect foil to Blackwell’s whining weasel Argan and to Carmel Johnson’s shrewd Beline, wife of Argan.
Emily Branford again proves her talent for visually appealing humour as she cavorts and delights in the role of daughter Angelique, trapped in her father’s ridiculous schemes. Nathan O’Keefe is an appealing suitor in the role of Cleante.
Terence Crawford provides a consummate contrast to the delusional Argan, as brother Beraide, who is genuinely ill and yet carries himself with aplomb and wears the mantle of acceptance and wisdom that often comes with genuine suffering.
Adelaide audiences delight in seeing Edwin Hodgeman as the doctor in the house, one who has obviously undertaken a hypocritical rather than Hippocratic Oath.
Each member of the ensemble steps up to the mark to make the most of the humour provided, but perhaps deserving a special mention is Rory Walker in his three roles – Thomas Diafoirus, Fleurant and Bonnefoi. Walker has captured the wit and irony that was surely Moliere’s intent as he mocked medicos who had little knowledge but much authority.
All in all this production provide an enjoyable (although long) evening at the theatre, but it is hard to believe that this is the same company that produced When The Rain Stops Falling and Drums in the Night.
Brink Productions present
a new adaptation by Paul Galloway
Directed by Chris Drummond
Venue: The Space Theatre, Adelaide
Dates: August 5 – 22 (previews from 31 July)
Tickets: $36 - $42