The Hypocrite arrives

Apr 12 2015 | By More

Moliere makes a comeback this week at the St Ninian’s church hall, where Edinburgh Theatre Arts are staging Roger McGough’s adaptation of his great comedy Tartuffe.

For ETA, the production is a return to full length productions after a year spent producing one-act plays – culminating in a successful production of Peter Quilter’s Blind Date, which got to the quarter finals of the SCDA One Act competition.

Tartuffe Cast In Rehearsal. Photo: John McLinden

Tartuffe Cast. Photo: John McLinden

For director John McLinden it is a return to comedy. He  told Æ he cut his teeth watching the Whitehall Farces, marvelling at their pace, comic timing and complicated business. And when it came to start directing for ETA he spent a decade focusing on comedy and farce before broadening his scope.

Tartuffe ticked all the right boxes to enable me to return to my roots,” he told Æ. “And it has provided more than enough of a challenge for me as a director, the cast and the technical team.”

Written in 1664 – and then banned by King Louis XIV – Tartuffe is a hypocrite, an apparent beacon of piety who has manoeuvred his feet firmly under the table of wealthy merchant Orgon. However, Orgon’s family smell a rat and hatch a cunning plan to outwit Tartuffe before he brings the fortune of the family crashing around its ears.

Having chosen to do Tartuffe, McLinden says the big question was deciding which version to stage. There have been several over the years, including Liz Lochhead’s Scots version which premiered at the Lyceum in 1987 and was revived in 2006.

“My starting point was to re-read Liz’s version,” he says. “I had seen it and loved it and to be quite honest I thought it was the version I was going to use.

laugh-out-loud moments

“Liz had supported as well through Macbeth in Scots, and we met her when we did her brilliant version of Dracula, so it seemed a no brainer. Indeed, I read four other versions – none of which compared to hers.”

Then, by chance, he came across Roger McGough’s version, bought a copy of the script and, it seems, was immediately hooked.

Tartuffe Cast In Rehearsal. Photo: John McLinden

Tartuffe Cast In Rehearsal. Photo: John McLinden

“One of the main attractions was the fact that it was first performed in 2008. McGough is a great poet and within that I found some laugh-out-loud moments reading the script. Also a there were a number of running gags which were right up my street.

“But what mattered in the final choice of adaptation was being able to deliver the text without having to think about an accent.  So, McGough’s version lent itself to this approach: Let the poetry do the talking. Except, of course, Tartuffe who in Damis’s words: ‘speaks not in verse, but in leaden prose’.”

When it comes to choosing what plays to stage, ETA turn to the half a dozen or so members who have directing experience. They nominate plays that they would like to direct. However in 2014 the company was struggling to find a suitable script, so decided to stage a double bill of one acts: coupling The Real Inspector Hound with Secretarial Skills.

The biggest challenge for the company lay in the logistics of rehearsing two plays with two different directors in  a short timescale. But when another director became interested in a pair of  Woody Allen shows for the Fringe its year of one-acts was complete.

the real challenge

“It was a great experience, working in short, sharp plays,” says McLinden. “And it did give us the chance to support the SCDA One Act competition which we have always wanted to support but have never had the right vehicle at the right time to participate.

“What I have learned, personally, is that my heart is definitely in the full-length play camp as this provides the real challenge in bringing together the components of acting, directing, lighting, sound and set design.”

If the foray into one-acts appears to be over for the moment, 2015 looks to be the year of comedy, with Colin McPherson making his directorial debut with Michael Frayne’s Noises Off.

And looking even further into the future, the company is exploring the possibilities of a community project based around extracts  from Tony Harrison’s Mystery Plays for 2016, and has already had a reading of Lucy Prebble’s Enron.

First, though, there is the small matter of bringing the original Hypocrite to the stage, new actors (for the young lovers Marianne and Valere) into the company and making sure the comedy is as laugh-out-loud on the stage as it was on the page.

And if that works, as McLinden says: “There is nothing better than watching a theatrical plan coming to fruition.”


Saint Ninian’s Hall, 40 Comely Bank, EH4 1AG
Monday 13 – Saturday 18 April 2015.
Evenings: 7.30pm; Saturday matinee: 2.30pm
For tickets (£10/concs £8) phone 07599 928440

Edinburgh Theatre Arts Website:


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