Written by Molière in 1665 Tartuffe lends itself to adaptation, and the director, Zina Carman, has decided to set the play in a circus.
In this classic comedic play Tartuffe, the title character fakes extreme piety to gain the affection of Orgon, the patriarch of the family with whom Tartuffe stays as a houseguest. Orgon’s adulation of Tartuffe tears the family apart. To save Orgon from his own folly and themselves from its consequences, Orgon’s family launches a campaign to expose and punish Tartuffe, rescue their own futures, and restore harmony to their lives.
In this version, Orgon is the owner & ringmaster of the Royal Circus and Tartuffe the fraudulent shaman who comes among them and creates discord.
Times Newspaper Group
Tartuffe takes centre stage at Torquay Theatre
Torquay Theatre Troupe is set to transport audiences back nearly four centuries with its latest production, Tartuffe, a classic French play that remains as relevant today as it did in the 17th century.
This production is set in a circus in today’s world and explores the deceptive world of power, the enduring strength of family bonds, and the ever-present threat of scams and deceit.
At the heart of this beloved satire, by French playwright Molière, is the cunning character Tartuffe, a man who poses as a holy figure but is more interested in seduction and wealth than saving souls.
His victim, the gullible and wealthy landowner Orgon, becomes the focal point of Tartuffe’s manipulation, pushing Orgon’s family to the brink of despair.
Director Zina Carman, who promised a captivating performance, said: “Molière is often hailed as the French Shakespeare due to his beautifully lyrical writing that simultaneously exposes the flaws and follies of his characters”.
“While the themes are weighty, the wit and wizardry of the writing will keep audiences thoroughly entertained.”
Originally, Tartuffe courted controversy when it first graced the stage, leading to its subsequent ban. Those who attended a performance or dared to read the script faced the threat of excommunication.
The play took a pointed swipe at the nobility, with Orgon portrayed as an infinitely gullible patriarch, while Catholic leaders were affronted by Tartuffe masquerading as a religious mentor.
Carman has injected her own vision into the production, amplifying the theme of families and fathers. She described Orgon as the “ringmaster of the domestic circus” and has incorporated a visual spectacle that promises to add an extra layer of enjoyment to the performance.
The cast boasts a blend of seasoned and emerging talent, with Steven Georgiadis stepping into the role of Tartuffe and Fred Preston portraying the gullible Orgon. The production promises a stellar ensemble cast that will bring this timeless tale to life.
Tartuffe is scheduled to run from October 26 to November 4. Tickets are available for purchase at trybooking.com/CJYXU
CAST (Alphabetical order of character)
Cleante / Strongman – Todd Curtis
Damis / Mime – Ben Batterbury
Dorine – Katie Hall
Elmire – Robyn Farrar
Flipote – Izzy Luxton
Magician – Tom Vlamis
Mariane – Gracie Rogers
Madame Pernelle – Terry Roseburgh
Monsieur Loyale (Bailiff) – Andrew Gaylard
Officer – Jock Hossack
Orgon – Fred Preston
Soldier – Robert Roseburgh
Tartuffe – Steven Georgiadis
Valere – Liam Ball
Appearances and assistance from: CircArts personnel.
Director – Zina Carman
Lighting / Producer – George Carman
Sound – Jackie Grills
Stage Manager – Gay Bell
Set Build – Michael Baker
Props – Barb Rindfliesch and Teresa Stipcevich
Costumes – Monica Pearson and Jillian Balodis
Tartuffe by Moliere, directed by Zina Carmen for Torquay Theatre Troupe, Shoestring Playhouse Torquay, October 26 2023
This vibrant Torquay production of Tartuffe displayed two truisms. The first is that fine writing and simple truths will protect and project a play through the centuries. The second is that Torquay’s Theatre Troupe now occupies a significant place on our cultural scene.
First the play. The French actor/writer Moliere wrote Tartuffe aka The Imposter and The Hypocrite in 1664, performed it once – only for it to be banned by King Louis XIV for its progressive content. It pokes fun at gullible people fooled and conned by religious zealots. That’s a theme that still resonates today, but that isn’t really the reason that Tartuffe has survived and thrived over the centuries.
It’s Moliere’s remarkable writing skills that make the play stand out.
For throughout the play, every character speaks in rhyming couplets and every line contains exactly twelve syllables. These, though mostly spoken by one character, are sometimes shared by two or more, making the play an exhilarating audience experience as the storyline is clearly outlined and explained inside these parameters. Small wonder Tartuffe is considered a classic in both French and English theatre.
It also makes the play a booby-trapped minefield for its actors, for one fluffed, forgotten or misplaced line would have the potential to derail the entire dialogue and ruin the plot flow.
But it was that element that attracted TTT director Zina Carman to the play, for, as she wrote in the programme, having read it through, during the Covid lockdown, she became determined to stage Tartuffe in Torquay.
She said that like Shakespeare, Moliere’s plays have the potential to be set in any situation in any era, so she decided to set hers in the present, during the end-of-season celebrations at a circus troupe. This brought the opportunity for colourful costumes and wigs with some opening tricks and acrobatics before the play properly began.
It also introduced another layer of difficulty for Zina’s acting troupe, who were already faced with Moliere’s exacting script and the play’s satirical themes. The style with which they overcame these hurdles nailed this review’s second principle – that Torquay’s theatre group now has established a significant place in our theatre scene.
For the large and variously talented team that Zina assembled – both off-stage and on – nailed every element of their classic play.
The big-top setting and colourful costuming were bang on. The lighting and sound, excellent and the simple, mostly unchanged multi-coloured set furniture allowed the action to smoothly flow without interruption.
And that large cast quickly and surely established their mastery over Moliere’s beautifully crafted script.
They were led by Fred Preston as Orgon, the head of the household (in Zina’s scenario, the owner/ringmaster) who stubbornly refused to believe he was being swindled by religious newcomer Tartuffe’s devious tactics. He was backed in this view by his mother, M. Pernelle, portrayed by Terry Roseburgh as a fanatical religious killjoy.
Ranged against this stubborn pair were every other member of the family/ troupe, all of whom recognised Tartuffe’s duplicity and hypocrisy. These were led by Katie Hall’s verbose cockney maid Dorine – who proved to be as able a manipulator as Tartuffe himself – and who brought together and coached the opposition into some delightfully purposeful comic schemes. That opposition comprised a central axis of Orgon’s son, daughter and brother-in-law. Ben Batterbury played son Damis with energy and bravado, while his star-crossed sister Mariane faced a potential forced marriage to Tartuffe with dramatic fortitude. Meanwhile, brother-in-law and circus strong-man Cleante, played by Todd Curtis, tried several diplomatic ways to sway Orgon’s staunch stubbornness, all in vain. Liam Ball played Mariane’s suitor Valere with first bewilderment and then frustration, before Orgon’s wife Elmire, portrayed with finely-judged skill by Robyn Farrar, and facing her own threat from Tartuffe, concocted a seductive scheme to open her husband’s eyes to his mentor’s duplicity.
That brings us to the man himself. Moliere’s structure of his play sees the first act all about the family trying to change their father/ringmaster’s mind. Though mentioned often, Tartuffe doesn’t actually appear until the second act. When he does, the play shifted up a gear. In the hands of Steven Georgiadis, Tartuffe was as crafty, sly, devious and manipulative – and believable – in his piety to shift every member of the audience into his opposition.
This lifted the play’s energy levels and brought a joyous element to Tartuffe’s false triumph then eventual downfall. That final twist was achieved with the input of Andrew Gaylard’s Loyal bailiff, Jock Hossack’s loyal Officer and Robert Roseburgh’s resolute Soldier as well as Izzy Luxton’s stoic servant Flipote.
Together, this team created a memorable Tartuffe that sits as comfortably in 21st Century Torquay as it has through Europe for centuries.
Go see it and you’ll be persuaded, too. Tartuffe is in Torquay’s Shoestring Playhouse until November 4. It is highly recommended.
– Colin Mockett
TTT also gained Victoria-wide recognition when Tartuffe gained 9 nominations and 5 major awards at the Victorian Drama League Awards Dinner. VDL judged 34 plays from all across Victoria in 2023.
- Gold Award Best Production – Comedy
- Gold Award Best Male Lead – Comedy
- Gold Award Best Female Lead Comedy
- Silver Award Best Set Design – Comedy & Drama
- Adjudicators Special Award
Nominees Comedy & Drama:
- Best Set Design – Zina Carman
- Best Lighting Design – George Carman
Nominees for Comedy:
- Best Director – Zina Carman
- Best Production – Zina Carman
- Best Male Lead – Steven Georgiadis
- Best Male Lead – Fred Preston
- Best Female Lead – Katie Hall
- Best Actress Minor Role – Terry Roseburgh
Best Actor Minor Role – Todd Curtis