Oran Mor, Glasgow

Mary Brennan


THERE’S clearly something in the air - and in the Moliere - making Tartuffe such a go-to play for modern audiences. Three topically updated versions have been staged down south - at London’s Haymarket, the National and the RSC- while the Spring/Summer season of a Play, A Pie and a Pint has opened by reviving Liz Lochhead’s rollicking Scots take on it.

Back in 2010, Lochhead’s pared-back Tartuffe was a hit in the PPP ‘Classic Cuts’ strand: bringing it back is part of a programme that celebrates the 15 years - and 30 seasons - of previously staged one-act lunchtime plays. Hurrah! it’s a cracking excuse to remind us of how we’ve been entertained en route to what will be the 500th new addition to the PPP output.

So why does this 17th century French comedy time-travel - and cross over cultures - so successfully? Because hypocrites and con-men are always with us, and so too are the gullible marks who fall for their guile, their flattery and emotional blackmail. Even when clearer-sighted friends and family can see through the cozening and deceit, fatuous men - like smugly autocratic Orgon (Grant O’Rourke) - are susceptible to creepy, insidious holier-than-thou parasites like Tartuffe.

An off-stage wailing denotes Orgon’s (unseen) daughter - now betrothed, unwillingly, to Tartuffe. He, meanwhile, is leching after Orgon’s wife. Andy Clark, in pious clerical garb, balances this wheedling fraud on a narrow margin between ridiculous phoney and unscrupulous predator - so yes, you laugh as he drools seduction over Organ’s wife Elmire (Nicola Roy) but it’s not so funny when he claims legal ownership of all Orgon possesses.

Thanks to Elmire and the maid Dorine (Gabriel Quigley, a splendidly gossipy eavesdropper!), there are happy twists in a tale that Lochhead delivers with colloquial flair in brawly rhyming couplets.Tony Cownie has directed Lochhead’s text before, so is familiar with its humours while the cast give the cat-and-mouse comedy pure laldy.