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The Tartuffe
Published on Tuesday, 11 August 2009

Last year's Edinburgh International Festival Award winner, Belt Up Theatre, have travelled from York to tell a classic French tale, in a recreation of the Moulin Rouge at C soco. You can tell it's going to be an unusual production from the start, as the audience is led into dark and smoky space, and seated in a circle.

The acclaimed meta-theatrical show stripped the classical play by Molière to its bare bones, leaving little space for the spectators to keep up with the speed of the unfolding stories of lust, murder, greed, a deserted husband, and the accidental death of a schizophrenic donkey.

In this modern adaptation by James Wilkes, Orgon appeared as a mad professor, Marianne was dressed as a can-can dancer, the servant Dorine appeared as a puppet, Damis was a mime, Valerie a busker, and Tartuffe - an undiscovered Jesus Christ Superstar.

The accumulation of gags and slapstick, along with the visual parable telling, had the effect of an unfinished cocktail - and was followed by a spectacular, but unexpected, death scene for Tartuffe. The show's pace slowed down after that, and part of the audience withdrew into themselves as the cast reprised a series of mass-killing scenes from Pulp Fiction, Kill Bill, and Terminator.

The Tartuffe is a complex avant-garde play with mime, bawdy language, good improvised acting, and strong impressionistic moods. However, the massacre which ends the play, despite its memorable performance, leaves it somehow incomplete.

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