A top-notch comedy cast are starring in The Miser at the Garrick Theatre in London’s West End. Here is Sophie‘s review of the show…
Moliere’s The Miser is a classic French farce – full of musings on wealth, greed and class, family resentments, arranged marriages, secret romances and comic misunderstandings. Fresh from directing The Dresser starring Reece Shearsmith at the Duke of York’s Theatre and turning his hand to film in directing Mindhorn written by/starring Julian Barratt and Simon Farnaby, Sean Foley has teamed up with playwright Phil Porter to adapt The Miser for a modern audience.
By this, I don’t mean they’ve updated the play by changing the setting or gender-swapping a few characters (as is pretty common with Shakespeare at the moment); humour has obviously changed a lot since the 17th century, so Foley and Porter have rewritten the script to make it as entertaining as possible. The jokes come thick and fast, covering all bases from slapstick and visual gags to double entendre and topical references. I saw The Miser on the day of ‘the budget’ and even this got a reference during the show. There are also plenty of meta moments that acknowledge the ridiculousness of Moliere’s plot, with pleas for the audience to “bear with us folks” and announcements of “previously on The Miser”.
Griff Rhys Jones stars as Harpagon, the titular Miser, a rich man who’s unwilling to spend money on anything and constantly worried that he will be robbed. His two disgruntled children are Elise (Katy Wix) who has a secret relationship with the family butler (Mathew Horne) but is being forced to marry an elderly neighbour, and Cleante (Ryan Gage) who has fallen madly in love with Mariane (Ellie White), a young woman he’s only just met and whom his elderly father also rather fancies. Andi Osho plays a matchmaker caught up in the drama while Lee Mack plays the family’s overworked servant.
So how do the Velvet Onion regulars among the cast fare? Katy Wix has the tough job of delivering some dense exposition dialogue, all performed with a speech impediment, at the start of the show when the audience is still pretty reserved. It’s a shame she doesn’t get a bit more to do later on when there’s a better atmosphere, although she does get some big laughs nonetheless. On the other hand, by the time Ellie White arrives towards the end of the first half, with an accent so posh it makes Made In Chelsea look like TOWIE, the audience is fully relaxed and howling at her every plummy word. Having just become a regular on TV over the last two years (showing up on our radar in Murder In Successville, House of Fools, The Windsors and most recently Inside No. 9) Ellie is certainly one to watch.
As for the rest of the cast, Griff Rhys Jones is clearly having a great time playing Harpagon, a man so stingy that he accuses his staff of “stealing the soft furnishings one feather at a time” and dances with joy at the thought of marrying off his daughter without a dowry. One particularly funny sequence involves him prancing around with glee as Andi Osho’s matchmaker convinces him that his bride-to-be is attracted only to older men, and the older the better. Mathew Horne is suitably lovesick as butler Valere, and Ryan Gage (the only cast member more known for theatre than TV) is delightfully foppish and dim as Cleante, like Prince George from Blackadder III with a lisp. Meanwhile stand-up Lee Mack, making his first appearance in the West End, is game to do anything for a laugh whether it’s dressing in a too-small suit or swordfighting with a baguette.
Whether you’re a lover or a hater of Moliere, or have never even heard of him, this energetic production of The Miser and its fantastic comedy cast will have something that makes you laugh.
The Miser is at the Garrick Theatre until June 3rd. Get tickets here.