Review: Tartuffe at The RSC, Stratford-upon-Avon

by Dave Massey twitter.com/brumhour

Tartuffe at The RSC, Stratford-upon-Avon

There’s a cuckoo in the nest at the Pervaiz household in Birmingham, most of the Pervaiz family can see it from the get go, but Imran Pervaiz (Simon Nagra) is soo enamoured by Tartuffe (Asif Khan) that he can’t see everything being taken before his eyes. Even his accountant Khalil (James Clyde) is worried.

Tartuffe is at the RSC until 23rd February 2019 and is a great comedy with very serious overtones. Based on the play by Molière, Tartuffe was first performed in 1664, this version by Anil Gupta and Richard Pinto is set in a wealthy self-made second and third generation Pakistani Muslim household in Birmingham.

Tartuffe Photo by Topher McGrillis (c) RSC
Tartuffe Photo by Topher McGrillis (c) RSC

Darina, the family cleaner (Michelle Bonnard) has been the family’s cleaner for many years and knows a whole load of family secrets, Darina also acts as our narrator at several stages throughout this almost farcical comedy. We meet Imran’s regular brummie daughter Mariam (Zainab Hasan) and son Damee (Raj Bajaj), their mother has passed away some time ago and Imran has remarried, his mother Dadimaa (Amina Zia) is less than impressed with everything, particularly his second wife Amira (Sasha Behar). This is very much and ensemble piece.

Tartuffe has been living in the household for some time by the start of the play Imran met him at the local Mosque, and now wants Tartuffe to marry his daughter Mariam, everyone else is against this but Imran is soo enamoured by Tartuffe that he’s ignoring the warning signs. even when Tartuffe propositions and gives unwanted attention to Imran’s wife Amira, Imran brushes it off. The family starts to fracture very quickly. Can it be rescued?

Tartuffe Photo by Topher McGrillis (c) RSC
Tartuffe Photo by Topher McGrillis (c) RSC

This is a warm, friendly and amusing production tackling timeless yet topical issues; idolising people, obsession with public image, sexual harassment and parents feeling disconnected from their children. There are many political, religious and cultural references in this fairly adult production as there is more than a sprinkling of colourful language.

I think it is polite to describe the Birmingham accents as entertaining, a Birmingham accent is very difficult to appropriate (Series 1 of Peaky Blinders I’m looking at you!) so I’m being quite forgiving. I really loved the characters as they were warm and funny and it really felt like a real family being disrupted by an unwelcome interloper.

Tartuffe Photo by Topher McGrillis (c) RSC
Tartuffe Photo by Topher McGrillis (c) RSC

This was my first visit to the Swan Theatre at the RSC and it looks like quite a traditional space, all wood and brickwork. The set itself was white tube lighting in the shape of a house which then lifted towards the roof of the theatre in sections to show the disruption to the family.

Tartuffe is at Swan Theatre until 23rd February 2019 at The RSC, Stratford-upon Avon book tickets here: rsc.org.uk/tartuffe


This isn’t a sponsored post. #BrumHour was invited to see Tartuffe by The RSC.