Excrementable - with an accent on the grave!

Published by: mike on 20th Mar 2017 | View all blogs by mike

       I certainly have no intention of taking a theatrical company to court but...

     Can a liability under the ‘Trade Descriptions Act’ be applied to a theatrical production?   Has this ever occurred?

      Last Thursday I attended a production of Moliere’s ‘The Miser‘  Or did I?   I had never seen a production of Moliere on the stage  before, and had been looking forward to the occasion.  I was misled.  The play was not by Moliere merely purporting to be so.

     I have booked for another play which begins its previews next week, It is  ‘The Misanthrope’ which is by Christopher Hampton.  (Not by Moliere)  I am certainly looking forward to this,

    The ‘Miser’ merely states that it has been ‘freely’ adapted which is rather different and suggests some involvement of Moliere in the script,

     I don’t want to mislead people.    Between about 1975 and 1985, I attended evening classes in playwriting,  though I have never submitted a play to a company,  My interest in the theatre did, however, revive when I began attending plays at the Globe and a few other theaters.  

     After about ten minutes of the play I was bored, and thought what a carry on.  On the saturday, I found a DVD of ‘Carry on at Your Convenience‘   My interest is in farce and i certainly do not disparage these films,  There is word play in the title.     

    In my opinion, the script of the   Carry On film  was similar - in intent - to that of the  play which, unfortunately, lacked the subtly of carry ons.  But the play would then be advertised as ‘The Miser‘  by Talbot Rothwell.

    My  objection is the company should have stressed that the play had very little to do with Moliere and also stressed that Moliere had not been the playwright,  The advertising is extremely misleading.

     I tried to write a  comedy review myself, on Sunday, but my review of is far ruder than the play.


       (This is not a review  but I  certainly did not enjoy the performances and was totally mislaid by the advertising. I, thus, formed a low opinion of Moliere’s abilities and would have had no wish to see any of his plays.  I noticed that there were empty seats at the interval and I might have followed the escapees.   There was an attempt at audience participation and, had I made an appropriate response, I might have been escorted out of the theatre.)  




  • Caducean Whisks
    by Caducean Whisks 4 days ago
    Moliere's Tartuffe was part of my A level syllabus, and I have to say you didn't miss anything. Terribly heavy going, and it was supposed to be a comedy. When you have to write essays explaining jokes - especially those in old French - they stop being funny (if they ever were).
  • mike
    by mike 4 days ago
    Dear Cad,
    You may well be right. I have not seen a Moliere play on stage so I cannot comment.
    It is possible that the company had tried - deliberately - to put on a bad production. In this respect, the production just did not work. I noticed the Guardian demoted the play from (***)
    to (**) and this is generous. By coincidence, I met someone who had seen a short pre-London tryout in a Suburban theatre and he though the production was rubbish but that is irrelevant.
    I think the problem is in the word 'adapted' The words 'a new translation by" were not used.
    I did hear a Moliere play on the radio, This was some years ago, and I can barely remember it, I looked it up .The translation had been by Roger MacGough and was in rhymed couplets, and this did work,
    I could see there is a farce in 'The Miser' but it was written by Moliere. This production made no comic sense. The ;Miser' is the Basil Fawlty character not an amiable benign figure.
    The argument that the production is commedia dell'arte does not apply as I have seen some. 'The Comedy of Errors' is a favourite play of mine and I have seem a commedia dell'arte production which used the circus as metaphor. But, presumably, Moliere used Commdia dell'arte stereotypes as Shakespeare did?
    No! This production gets the ultimate condemnation, I could have done better - even with the script the cast had been given. But most of the cast did not have any appreciable acting abilities. It was very odd, Some ditties were included and actress sang flat. But nothing was made of this. One critic had spotted this and was of the opinion that she could not sing!
  • Caducean Whisks
    by Caducean Whisks 4 days ago
    Dear Mik,
    I have an inkle that The Miser was based on Silas Marner or the other way round. But I could be wrong. If so, it may not have been 'original' in the first place.
  • mike
    by mike 4 days ago
    Dear Cad,
    I’m not sure on this. Love’s Labour’s Lost’’ is on at the Haymarket. Much of the comedy in this play is lost to a modern audience. But the skill of the actors
    bought the play alive. I spoke to someone on the train about this and he was disappointed that the play had been cut. But what if the lines make no sense?
    I am sure the same company could do the same with a Moliere play, provided that a modern translation is provided by a modern comic playwright, But this company was the R.S.C.
    The production of the ‘Miser‘ is really a masterclass in how not do write or present a farce or comedy. It was cheap from the very start, Before the curtain rose, Bach’s ‘Two part inventions”were played on the harpsichord. But this was a recording.
    A good production would have had a harpsichordist on the stage and someone who could play it too. The curtain rose on a wooden copy and the only use made of it, was to slam the lid on a factotum’s fingers. This was done about three times.
    The skill in farce is in the exact timing and trajectory of falling trousers. If this is not executed with balletic precision, the whole production will fall into chaos. Well, it would descend into chaos anyway. None of this was an issue in this production as there were no actors. One female actor tried a bit of character, and could not pronounce her Rs. But this is self defeating if, for the whole production, you cannot hear what she says. One critic of the ;Daily Telegraph’ did go as far as saying do you really want to pay to see this?’ But this was also a comment on some dialogue in the play. The miser addresses the audience and comments on the high price of the seats. Well, he is a miser! It was the only genuine satire in the play,. One actor exposed his bum crack to the audience, There was no reason for this, I had had an impulse to reply, in the sweetest of tones ‘What an arsehole’ but I would have been escorted out of the theatre. I got a cheap seat in the stalls and could not see one of the wings, but I was only about four rows from the front, This comedian came across as a rather nasty person and might have got off the stage and hit me. This audience participation only goes one way.
    I’m off to the theatre again this evening and I hope it is a more entertaining play.
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