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Thursday, May 25, 2017


(Craig Morris & Neil McCarthy Pic by Dee-Ann Kaaijk)

Standout performances from a stellar cast. (Review by Caroline Smart)

I normally have to wait until the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown or the Hilton Festival to catch performances by top South African actors and actresses such as Craig Morris, Vanessa Cooke and Sylvaine Strike.

What a pleasure to be able to see them right here in Durban in Molière’s Tartuffe which is directed by Sylvaine Strike of the Fortune Cookie Theatre Company, and also marks a welcome return to the stage of Neil McCarthy.

Also great to see a professional production such as this being staged at the Courtyard Theatre. All credit to the Alliance Française, the KwaZulu-Natal Arts and Culture Trust, and Tsogo Sun Garden Court Marine Parade for hosting the KZN leg of the tour of this theatre classic.

Tartuffe is a tale of how a wealthy man, Orgon (McCarthy) is completely taken in by a vicious manipulator, Tartuffe (Craig Morris), who eventually takes him to the brink of total destruction as well as the alienation of his family. It is only the clever thinking of the family that traps Tartuffe into revealing his true colours.

Dorine, the feisty housekeeper played by the diminutive Vanessa Cooke, has suspicions about Tartuffe’s hypocrisy from the start and makes her opinions clear but Orgon refuses to listen. His sister Cléante, played by Camilla Waldman who is dressed as a man, does her best to make Orgon see sense but is also rejected. Orgon makes matters worse when he decrees that his charming daughter Mariane, played by Vuyelwa Maluleke, marries Tartuffe. This is an order she receives with revulsion because she is in love with Valère played by Anele Situlweni.

Mariane’s brother, the volatile Damis played by Adrian Alper, makes his feelings felt and attacks Tartuffe who makes a big show of being unfairly attacked. It is eventually Orgon’s wife Elmire, played by Khutjo Green, who beats Tartuffe at his own manipulation game.

William Harding skilfully handles three roles - Mr Loyal, the Officer, Flipote.

As if his powerful and multi-layered performance as Tartuffe wasn’t enough to prove what a fine actor he is, Morris starts the play off as the imperious and strident, Madam Pernelle. McCarthy is highly credible as the gullible Orgon, Cooke always a delight and Waldman handles her role with vigour.

However, all told, there are standout performances from the whole stellar cast. Every drama student should see this … and learn!!

Tartuffe was first performed in 1664. The play was closed down, censored and Molière questioned by the religious authorities of the time, who saw in it an audacious critique of hypocrisy within the church. However, there is a universal message – don’t be taken in by smooth talkers or those who butter up your ego. A message which resonates in many situations among people in power today!

Translated by Richard Wilbur, the play is in rhyming couplets which the cast handle extremely well. Strike has put her own individual stamp on a commedia dell'arte piece with Owen Lonzar providing the choreography. She also did some gender-swopping, having Morris play Madam Pernelle and turning the role of Orgon’s brother into a woman.

The Courtyard Theatre proved itself more than capable of handling the challenge of this production which Strike chose to set in a garden rather than a house, as was Molière’s choice. Sasha Ehlers and Chen Nakar’s design saw the stage filled with elegant ornate 1930’s/40’s frameworks, billowing chiffon curtains and garden chairs. Hanging wisteria and ivy add to the charm but as the play gets darker with Tartuffe’s achieving his ambitions, these are all removed leaving a sense of barrenness. Ehlers also designed the costumes which are highly effective.

Oliver Hauser’s lighting design and Dean Barrett’s music add to the dramatic developments.

There are two more performances – tonight and tomorrow (May 25 and 26) at 19h00 at the Courtyard Theatre on the DUT campus. The show runs for two hours without interval and there is an age restriction of no under 16’s.

Tickets R80 (R60 concessions) booked through Computicket on 0861 915 8000, online at or at any Shoprite Checkers outlet. For discounted corporate, schools or block-bookings, charities or fundraisers, contact Alliance Française: Vincent Frontczyk on 031 312 9582.

The production has been made possible through the support of Total South Africa, BNP Paribas and RCS (a BNP Paribas group company) and Mazars in association with the French Institute of South Africa (IFAS).

The KZN leg of the tour has been hosted and facilitated by the Alliance Française de Durban, presented by the Courtyard Theatre at DUT, and supported by the KwaZulu-Natal Arts and Culture Trust, and Tsogo Sun Garden Court Marine Parade. – Caroline Smart

The production goes on to the Joburg Theatre, Fringe Theatre for a run from May 31 to June 25 before heading for the 2017 National Arts Festival in Grahamstown.