Tartuffe Blog – Truth through laughter

    In the latest in our Tartuffe blog series, actors Daisy and Anna tell us about some of the joys and challenges of staging this modern adaptation of Molière’s classic comedy and share some of their Bristol highlights.

    Tell us a bit about both of your characters – Melissa Ogden and Danuta. What are your favourite things about them and how do they fit into the overall Ogden household?

    Daisy: The thing I love about Melissa is that she tries very hard to get away from the stereotype of a spoilt child. Through no fault of her own, it’s been embedded in her through her upbringing in this family but she tries to move away from it. Also she has a fun relationship with her twin brother Dan and she has been really close to her father. When Tartuffe comes into the house, it’s about re-finding the balance in those family relationships, so it’s been fun exploring that.

    Anna: I’m still discovering Danuta really but the great thing about her is how clever she is. She has a PhD in Astrophysics, she can speak Hindi…in fact if you asked her, there are probably about 4 languages she can speak. She’s a very smart woman! But she cleans and cooks for this family so there’s already tension there.

    She’s got a sense of superiority because she’s so smart and she puts her foot in it all the time. She doesn’t have any diplomatic skills, she doesn’t think of consequences and she doesn’t care if she’s being listened to. So it’s really fun to play her.

    Daisy: Danuta’s not lived in this privileged bubble so she can be insightful about what’s going on..

    Anna: It’s the benefit of being an outsider – she sees more and can say more because she’s got nothing to lose. She’s not even afraid of being fired. Whereas the other characters are all stuck in this family.

    This is a modern adaptation of a piece of classical French theatre and, although the language is updated and in English, it is in rhyme. What has been most enjoyable and what most challenging in bringing the play to life? 

    Anna: Finding the rhythm of the text was important to do early on in rehearsals but once we found it, it’s done most of the work for us. The verse lifts it up and gives it lightness, fun and speed. It was hard to get to grips with but now it should feel effortless and fun to listen to.

    Daisy: It’s both joyful and challenging! There’s a beautiful flow to the language though in some ways it’s harder than Shakespeare. The characters finish each other’s sentences a lot which is quite hard to rehearse! It makes you be really in the moment because you have to be ready at all times.

    We want to be faithful to and respect the original play but at the same time, as with any adaptation, you need to challenge it and take risks otherwise it wouldn’t be new. We talked about where Tartuffe would be in 2017 and who he’d be in order to come in and brainwash these people.

    Anna: Yes, all the characters are modern versions of Molière’s. We have thought about where they would most probably be if they were born now.

    Tartuffe is a comedy but it also deals with serious themes of hypocrisy, deceit and morality. As a company, did you discuss any of this and how to strike the right balance on stage?

    Anna: We discussed how to get the balance right between the comic and serious moments. For example, there’s a scene between Tartuffe and Charles Ogden’s wife, Emma, which can be played very seriously or in a very farcical way so we talked about it and what sort of show we wanted to portray.

    Daisy: Yes that moment sparked quite a debate because we all felt differently about it. Some of us felt maybe feeling uncomfortable in that moment was ok or maybe not…there’s no right or wrong. That’s the thing about theatre. But there has to be an element of truthfulness in order for it to be funny.

    Anna: I believe you can tell a true story and portray something very profound through laughter. But within that laughter there has to be truth – we’re laughing at things we recognise in our own lives. And sometimes we laugh because we feel uncomfortable.

    Finally, how are you enjoying your time in Bristol? Any highlights?

    Daisy: Bristol was voted number one place to live by the Sunday Times and I agree with it! I love it here! I performed at Tobacco Factory Theatres 3 years ago and I’ve got a great base here. I love it that people have time to say ‘Cheers, drive’ at the end of a bus journey. It’s a super vibrant city. North St is great and I love walking round the Harbourside and up Park Street.

    Anna: Yeah, all the coffee shops and vintage shops are Bristol for me! I have been here before but this is the first time I’ve worked here. It’s vibrant and exciting but also like being in a village. The tempo is slower – life slows down slightly but in the most positive sense.

    Anna and Daisy perform in our co-production of Tartuffe with Shakespeare at the Tobacco Factory until Sat 06 May. Read more about the show and book via our main show page.

    Read the rest of our Tartuffe blog:

    Conmen and Imposters

    The Voice of Reason

    Laugh until it hurts

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