Pros: A great concept.
Cons: The poor quality of the performance and production values.
Transposing Moliere’s human drama The Misanthrope from 17th century Paris to modern day London is a stroke of genius. So many similarities can be found between pre-revolutionary French society and the contemporary consumerist rush, especially within an industry entirely appearance-based like fashion.
In this version revisited by The Acting Gymnasium, the protagonist Alceste (Sunil Patel) is a famous fashion photographer. He despises the fabricated attitudes of his friends and colleagues, preferring isolation to the company of their opportunistic behaviour. Infatuated with the frivolous Celimene (Tawny Fontana), he nonetheless regrets his low popularity and, despite every effort, ends up barking scornful statements to whoever tries to entertain a conversation with him.
The plot evolves towards Alceste learning a life lesson, following a series of events that those who know the original story will find easier to navigate. As I wasn’t familiar with the play, keeping track of the narrative twists and turns was a challenge.
Patel’s rushed delivery, combined with an occasionally inarticulate diction, detracted significantly from my enjoyment. I struggled to grasp the elaborate lines translated from the original French.
Remarkable performances came from the ladies on stage, although the programme is less than clear about their names.
The production’s major flaws involve shoddy stage management and lighting design. I couldn’t help notice Celimene walking onto stage way before her cue, to then deliver a line before realising that her companions were still deep in conversation. Inevitably ignored she retired off stage, to then reappear a few minutes later with the same opening line.
The most striking lighting pitfall was during a scene in a bar. Alceste is standing alone by a tall table, and Philinte and Eliante stand aside another one on the opposite side downstage. Both tables are lit with a spotlight, but when Alceste and Philinte move centre-stage to exchange a few words, the light remains over the empty table, whilst the pair are left in darkness.
Greater care has been reserved for the evocative and perfectly appropriate musical score, which features popular hits from Lily Allen, Moby, Coldplay and others.
When aiming to open up to a wider public, though, the lack of structure and the approximate quality of the production, can cause a certain discomfort. Like, for example, the 15-minute delay on the start time or the 15-minute interval, which leisurely run well over 20.
As someone who visited Theatro Technis for the first time, I left full of admiration for the company’s enthusiasm and commitment to inclusion, as well as the warm sense of community that animated the space. However, I was also disappointed for missing so much of the performance to a lack of skill and structure.
Author: Jean Baptiste Poquelin De Moliere
Director: Gavin McAlinden
Producer: The Acting Gymnasium
Booking Until: 1 May 2018 (selected dates only)
Box Office: 0207 387 6617
Booking Link: https://www.actinggymnasium.co.uk/booktickets