Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Le Malade Imaginaire

#29 Review a Piece of Theatre

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Molieres Le Malade imaginaire (The Hypochondriac) opened at The Gardens Theatre for a short season to showcase the skills of the second year actors in the Acting Program at Queensland University of Technology.

The play focuses on Argan, an extremely well to do gentleman, but a miser, who imagines himself sick when he perfectly well. He seeks the newest and most outrageous (and expensive) medical assistance and adheres to everything each of his doctors dish out. Obviously his money hungry doctors milk his hypochondria for all it is worth, which ultimately leads eventually to their demise. Although first performed in the 16th century , the themes displayed carry over well into the 21st century.

Argan demands that his daughter Angelique marrys a doctor so he can get free medical care. Sadly for both of them she is secretly in love with another, but does not dare tell her father of her beaus existence. Angelique and Argans second younger wife do not get along, which causes grief to Argan.

However with the assistance of Argan's nurse and maid Toinette, his brother Beralde attempts to cure Argan of his fixation on doctors and of their outrageous cures. They convince him to play dead, in order to find out who is really loyal to him. As with this style of theatre, it turns out that the wife is only after his money, whereas Angelique really loves him. Argan is so delighted that he allows Angelique to marry whom she choses.

Billie Brown directed this adaptation of the French Comedia Del Arte Strictly speaking however, true Comedia was never scripted. The first act completely missed the point of the style in which it was meant to be performed. The actors were uncomfortable with the style, the direction and the interpretation they had been given. Most of them were extremely clunky, attempting to adapt their more comfortable naturalized presentation of the highly stylized dialogue and repartee famed in Molieres work.

The second act was rescued by what appeared to have been a much more thoroughly workshopped set of scenes.

Toinette was delightful with her bright red lipstick and very revealing nurses outfit. Her skill alone kept the dialogue and energy running as others floundered uncomfortably around her.

The masked doctors scene further revealed that they understood little of the style they were portraying; it coming across as puppet like and two dimensional.

Another week of workshopping of scenes and exploration into the nature of improvised comedia del arte would have not gone astray for this production. In saying this, there were plenty of nice touches with intricate scene changes, the integration of up to date jokes and the minimalistic props.

With a two week season, there is limited seating. Tickets start at $10. For more information and session times check The Gardens Theatre Wesbite.

3 stars for this