21
May
12

The Miser

The Miser

Growl Theatre

Windsor State School Hall

18th – 26th May 2012

Reviewed by Michelle Bull

Last Saturday night, I headed out to see Growl Theatre’s latest production ‘The Miser’ by French playwright Moliere.

With greed being a central theme, it was a rather apt choice of entertainment for the night as I had just swiped the last of my fiancé’s chocolate on my way out the door… a frequent (and rather impolite) habit of mine!

Entering the space and settling myself with a glass of wine, I was immediately drawn to a character I could only assume to be La Flèche (Luke Farrow) wandering across the stage, casually sweeping under the audiences feet and mingling silently with the audience. This immediate intimacy was a welcoming beginning to the play, and one, which I was not expecting given the open aesthetic of the space.

Known widely as a comedy of manners, ‘The Miser’ is typical of Moliere’s character-driven writing. Typically it focuses on the exploitation of a specific attribute, often journeying to the point of the ridiculous to make the point. The Miser focus’s largely on the greed of the protagonist Harpagon, a rich, ill tempered Miser, who values money and wealth more than the welfare of his own children, Elise (Rosanna Brennan) and Clèante (Matthew Seddon). Love is also a reoccurring motive as the children both yearn to run away with their respective lovers, Valère (James Meggitt) and Marianne (Ellen Carseldine). Enter a comical archetypal supporting cast; a stolen casket of gold, and watch the drama unfold.

Staged in Windsor State School Hall, Growl Theatre made the most of a space that, while functional, lacked theatrical atmosphere. The play itself was set in Harpagon’s living room, the stage simply dressed with a focus on functionality. Despite this it managed to evoke a sense of the play’s personality with quirky touches like a stack of books propping up a table leg.

Minimalistic sets always appeal to me, and in this case the choice was obviously fitting to the frugality of the central character, but it also gave the actors the opportunity to make the space come alive without the distraction of an overly- stuffed stage.

I particularly enjoyed the use of the space off stage as an entrance and exit point. I would have loved for some more of the dialogue to have happened from these points to really immerse the audience, as the few times this was done were by far the most engaging moments in the play. Frequently breaking the fourth wall with direct dialogue to the audience is a charming characteristic of this work and one that I felt could have been used to greater effect with some different staging choices.

The cast of The Miser presents this story with a great deal of enthusiasm and dedication to the archetypes that underpin each character. While on the whole the characterization was rather one dimensional, however each performer had a certain charm or skill they bought to the role.

Jason Sharland in the role of Harpagon is tireless in his approach, and performs the role with consistent energy and a clear understanding of the characters motivation. Sharland incorporates a physicality to the role that is reflective of Harpagon’s age and vigor, however I would have liked less of an affect on his vocalization of the role, which at times got in the way of a clear delivery of the text and the credibility of a weighted tone.

Rosanna Brennan in the role of Elise and James Meggitt as her love interest Valère both gave wonderfully natural and well measured performances. Showing a respect for the natural rhythm and shape of the text they are clear in their characterization of the roles although at times Brennan’s lack of vocal projection meant some text became lost. As Valère, Meggitt gave a well-considered performance of the text but tended to rush his delivery. As love interests they had a wonderfully believable chemistry onstage and showed a keen awareness of ensemble.

Matthew Seddon as Clèante exuded a boyish charm in his role and an energy that matched those playing opposite. His portrayal of the character was most effective when it was also embodied physically (another strong offstage moment), as at these points in the play it had a natural rhythm and pace that at other times seemed artificial.

Clèante’s love interest Marianne, played by Ellen Carseldine was a standout for me in this production.  With an insightful treatment of the text, this young performer showed a wonderful depth to her characterization, balancing the parameters of the archetype with a sincere interpretation of character.

The other standout performer for me in this production was Luke Farrow in the role of La Flèche. A wonderfully natural performer, he performed with a casual elegance that added weight to his scenes. With an innate sense of comic timing and natural physicality onstage he was utterly believable in a role that he clearly has established ownership over.

Lee St Clair as Anselme, Master Simon and Brindavoine also gave a strong performance, his commanding stage presence aided by some striking costume design (Anne Grant). Likewise Rhiannon Said in the role of matchmaker Frosine, brought an liveliness and enthusiasm to the role that was matched by a clear and strong vocal delivery.

Simon Corvane as Master Jacques and Jude Marko in the roles of La Merluche and the Police Officer also brought comic relief and a sense of joyfulness to their roles, playing the archetypes with a sense of abandon that although perhaps in need of some refinement were a constant source of energy throughout the show.

The Miser is the second offering from new organisation Growl Theatre. An ambitious undertaking, director Nicole Tate succeeds in delivering a play of good dramatic pace and momentum with a cast that give it their all. I look forward to seeing this new organisation continue to grow and evolve.

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