I went into watching this show not expecting much. It’s not something that had massively interested me and I wouldn’t be willing to pay to see it again. But I still went into watching it with an open mind. With a star studded cast of excellent comics I really wanted to be impressed and was excited at the prospect of 150 minutes of hilarity, unfortunately this wasn’t the case.
I’ll start with the set – something that I actually really liked about the production. The decrepit and sparse interior of what could obviously once have been a beautiful, regal home was superb. The entirety of the first act was set in this one room with a variety of characters constantly running in from outside or other parts of the house. In the second act the spinning set introducing us to the exterior of the house worked really well and made scene transitions from outside to inside speedy and clever. Loved it.
But that was about all I loved. I found the acting by both Matthew Horne and Ryan Gage to be very try-hard. Griff Rhys Jones who leads the cast playing the senile Harpagon and who is usually excellent was also try-hard and unimpressive. The over-acting from the entire cast was bizarre and the slap-stick unfunny with many of the jokes falling flat. Perhaps this style was chosen by Foley to bring emphasis to the time-period the play is set in, but it got tiresome fast. In my opinion, Lee Mack, in his West End debut, stole the show. Which is a sentence I never thought I’d write. But it’s true. He played the same character he always plays but it worked so well. He was a moment of respite in all the bizarreness and I found myself laughing along and watching only him every time he was on stage – and wishing he was on the stage even more. Lee Mack multi-roles many characters superbly transitioning not from one to the other in hilarious ways, but among them all he seemed to play the only sane one looking in on the performance with as much confusion and embarrassment that I felt. It worked so well. Kudos to Foley for including this character and his one-liners. They were excellent.
One thing I do have to commend the actors on is their vocal work, with Katy Wix standing out in particular to me. With the bizarre over-acting every word really needed to be articulated more than ever and the whole cast managed this with Wix standing out, creating an overly posh and grating voice that suited her character perfectly. Ellie White is one other that I want to praise for creating the perfect voice to suit her character making the way she said things funnier than what she was actually saying.
This revival of a show first performed in 1668 is adapted by Phil Porter and director Sean Foley who did very well at modernising the show and including many relevant jokes about pop culture today. Jokes about the budget, Sports Direct and Shia Labeouf worked somewhat well. One that I found incredibly funny was Mack’s gag about the possibility of a 5 star review – said while shaking his head as though he knew and accepted it was impossible. Respect to Foley for adding this gag – he must know that the show isn’t much more than a desperate make-you-laugh-at-any-cost performance. He seems to have accepted that and has told the cast to just have fun. Which from an audience perspective, they definitely did.
Overall, the show isn’t one I would ever see again. I found myself checking my watch very often, rolling my eyes and cringing at many of the jokes. It wasn’t for me. But that isn’t to say you won’t enjoy it. A few of the girls I went with were laughing the whole way through. The Miser is undoubtedly the marmite of the West End. And though I haven’t given it the 5 star review it pondered it would get – that’s okay. The actors are still having fun and that’s all you can ask for in a show like this.
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