OFTEN when you come across a real live misery guts they will complain that life sucks, that no one is
OFTEN when you come across a real live misery guts they will complain that life sucks, that no one is honest any more, that you can’t trust a soul, and it’s all the fault of the modern world where no one behaves like they used to in the good old days. It was interesting, then, to observe that Alceste, Molière’s hater-of-all-mankind, thought exactly those thoughts even though he was created as far back as 1666.
Alceste is a poet and a true artist who despairs of the frippery and hypocrisy that permeates the French court. Unlike his contemporaries, he tells it as it is, making plenty of enemies along the way.
The only person he admires is the beautiful socialite, Célimène, who is his polar opposite. Surrounded by admiring suitors, she teases and flirts, and regales everyone with her witty but catty observations of the people in their social circle.
The plot of this comedy of manners is rather thin — unusually so for Molière — but centres on the question of whether Alceste can win her heart, or whether she will settle for one of the vain, pretentious but frankly more fun-to-be-with prospective lovers.
Roger McGough’s adaptation is witty and clever in a deadpan kind of way, but there weren’t as many belly laughs as I was expecting in this production. Daniel Goode was hilarious as the affected Oronte, Alceste’s great love rival, and the scene where he reads out his appallingly bad sonnet for Alceste to pass judgement on was one of the funniest.
This was an entertaining night out, and it is always a pleasure to sit and absorb the thoughts of a genius such as Molière. His observations on human behaviour are so acute you can hardly believe that they were made 350 years ago. At the end of the play, you are left wondering whether Alceste’s cynicism is such an odious thing after all.