The Miser, Garrick Theatre, review: ‘Full throttle farce but gags feel relentless’

PUBLISHED: 12:30 20 March 2017

The Miser with Griff Rhys Jones, Lee Mack and Ryan Gage. Picture: Tristram Kenton

The Miser with Griff Rhys Jones, Lee Mack and Ryan Gage. Picture: Tristram Kenton

Archant

Lee Mack’s Maitre Jacques smacks the audience between the eyes with cute, wry asides that break the fourth wall, but the relentlessness of the quips from all participants is an exhausting experience

The phrase “freely adapted” decorates the programme of Sean Foley and Phil Porter’s version of Moliere’s 350 year old comedy, like a caveat booming with a klaxon-like honk.

After all, the biggest challenge facing any revival is to ensure that archaic material rings true to a contemporary audience. Adaptors must drag the past kicking and screaming into the modern age in the hope that the satire and comedy hit home.

The titular Miser, Harpagon (a full-throttle Griff Rhys Jones), is a filthy - and filthily rich - old man who secretly stashes boxes of gold about his grounds under the paranoid (mis)apprehension that his son and daughter are dying to get their mitts on his lucre.

The pair in question, Elise (Katy Wix) and Cleante (Ryan Gage), are far more concerned with affairs of the heart, however, and couldn’t care less for the trappings of fortune.

Intercut with conflicting objects of affection and the frugal motivations of their father, factions are pitted against one another in an ebullient, farcical menagerie. Lee Mack’s Maitre Jacques smacks the audience between the eyes with cute, wry asides that break the fourth wall, but the relentlessness of the quips from all participants is an exhausting experience. Particularly in the first half.

The gags shoot out like artillery fire in the hope that if you throw enough jokes, some will stick. To be fair, many do. Gage is brilliant, as is Rhys Jones. In fact, all the cast are on song, including Matthew Horne as Valere.

Whilst this Miser might not be the total misfire that some early reviews would have you believe, Porter and Foley’s folly is that Moliere’s work is too drawn out and, whilst this does engage pretty consistently, its appeal does begin to wane after its elongated wax. Rating: 3/5 stars

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