REVIEW: Molière's The Miser at the Garrick Theatre, London
Updated: Mar 13
Faultless dialogue, effortless wit, and a genuine tour de force - The Miser is the richest comedy currently gracing the West End.
Admittedly, I'd never heard of Morièle's The Miser before, but if you ask me if I'd like to see Lee Mack on stage them I'm going to say yes. I'm not going to lie; I'm quite obsessed with Lee Mack. And why wouldn't I be? If I didn't know it already, this evening's show would have proven that he, along with the rest of the cast, is indispensable when considering comic performance and audience engagement.
So I may have exalted in my professionalism this evening when I seemed to have misplaced my notebook and ended up using myself as a human doodle (I'm not even kidding), but even had I ran out of flesh on which to scribble it wouldn't have mattered. The Miser is unforgettable.
With the story's origins stemming all the way back to 254 BC, and Molière's own interpretation first performed as L'Avare in Paris in 1668, it has proven to be a timeless tale. Its current guise has been adapted by Sean Foley and Phil Porter, and also directed by Foley, as it propels its way into the twenty-first century to project a satirical farce against the foibles of the wealthy.
The martyrdom of our characters is carried with precision, with Griff Rhys Jones in the title role of Harpagon the Miser. He bounces effortlessly between the audience and the action on stage, blurring the distinction between reality and invention. Without that fourth wall, we become part of the journey. We as an audience are no longer spectators, but instead have become characters in this bona fide fiction.
With Mack** donning the many chapeaux of Maître Jacques, and his former Not Going Out co-star Katy Wix as Harpagon's daughter Elise, there's no shortage of laughter as outrageous proclamations are interluded with ferocious harpsichord baiting.
The flamboyant persona of Elise's brother Cléante springs to life through Ryan Gage, and with Matthew Horne as Valère (who, by the way, wears the most magnificent shoes!), the production has brought together some of the most spectacular seasoned performers to successfully raise the standard of acceptance for comedic theatre.
The cast and creatives include the following:
(A comprehensive list of the talent behind the production can be found here.)
Harpagon - Griff Rhys Jones
Maître Jacques - Lee Mack
Elise - Katy Wix
Valère - Matthew Horne
Cléante - Ryan Gage
Director - Sean Foley
Adaptors - Sean Foley/Phil Porter
Set and Costume - Alice Power
Casting director - Sarah Bird
Production manager - Sam Paterson
*This is my way of abiding by social media's utterly barbarous rule that I must declare that I didn't pay for the ticket myself, but that it was, in fact, given to me in exchange for my honest opinion. Cheers, Corner Shop PR!
**I had read only recently in Mack's memoir, Mack the Life***, that he hadn't had any professional training in performance, unless we're counting the days he spent as a Blue Coat at Pontins. I swear, had it ever come up on Would I Lie to You? that he had spent four years training at RADA, and a subsequent decade treading the boards as the late Laurence Olivier's understudy, after tonight's performance I'd have been convinced he was telling the truth.
***That's actually not a promotional statement; I just really enjoyed his book, and you should all rush out to find a copy of Mack the Life. Just, you know, as soon as you've seen The Miser.