The Misanthrope

Wellington Performing Arts Centre, Wellington

29/09/2010 - 03/10/2010

Production Details


With 27 actors performing in three different shows, Long Cloud is embracing its next challenge. In this year’s production season the talented young actors throw themselves into three (modern) classics of world theatre: EQUUS by Peter Shaffer, THE MISANTHROPE by Moliere and THE SEAGULL by Anton Chekhov. 

Molière’s THE MISANTHROPE, an extravagant comedy about a man who is brutally honest no matter what offence he causes, is the perfect play for our era of spin. Alceste, the title character, crusades for absolute truth and is disgusted by the hypocrisy, injustice and overall corruption in human society. Of all people, he is in love with Celimene who is a prime example of the insincerity he despises in this world of falsity and back talk. 

Molière’s THE MISANTHROPE asks a timeless question: is it possible in our society for someone to tell the truth, come what may, and survive?

The Misanthrope
Wed 29 Sept, Fri 1 Oct, Sun 3 Oct @ 7.30pm, & Sat 2 Oct @3pm
Theatre Wellington Performing Arts Centre, 36 Vivian St, Wellington $15/$10 | BOOKINGS PHONE 04 238 6225 or EMAIL:

Whitireia Performing Arts Company
36 Vivian Street, Wellington
Telephone (04) 238 6225 | Facsimile: (04) 385 0486     

Wassenaar brings out the best in a very talented group of performers

Review by Maryanne Cathro 30th Sep 2010

First performed in 1666, The Misanthrope would have been set firmly in the society from which Molière drew its inspiration. And yet Long Cloud Youth Theatre’s production, which is set in some kind of contemporary ‘Ab Fab’ universe, is just as relevant. The stage is of course a catwalk, a difficult space to act in that, with one exception, works very, very well.*

The play is about the inanity of social behaviours: courting favours and sucking up. The misanthrope of the title, Alceste, is a disillusioned young man who vows to only speak the truth as he sees it, and not to pander to the whims of the Royal Court or its adherents. It is therefore little wonder that it was a bit of a fizzer back in 1666. “In theatro veritas.” Today however, we have no second thoughts about pillorying this kind of behaviour; perhaps because, rather than in spite of, the fact that it still abounds.

The young players bring the characters to life in this energetic production. Rather than being the noble hero, Alceste is hypocritical and annoying in his lofty claims of upholding honesty and sincerity while panting after the prettiest, most vacuous woman in town. Jonathan Price makes no attempts to stereotype him either way but instead delivers a skilfully believable mix of humanity that carries us along with him. Likewise his foil Philente, played by Patrick Carroll, is credible and loveable for all his weaknesses. These two command most of the first act and establish themselves as actors of great presence, physicality and subtlety.

Complementing the credibility of these two characters are the complete parodies that are Acaste and Clitandre. Mincing about the stage, Nathan Mudge and Barney Tennyson are a comic duo that one audience member afterwards compared to the hyenas in The Lion King. To give away a single specific moment of their performance would be to give away the delicious and hilarious whole.

Molière’s gives modern actors little to work with in his archetypal female characters, but this cast is up to the challenge. Freya Sadgrove as Eliante is possibly the only likeable character in the play as she is constant in her attitudes and simple in her desires. Augusta Wills plays a sassy and sensuous Celimene, delivering both the brazen behaviour of a socialite “bee-arch” and the underlying fragility of a woman who knows that without her attitude she has nothing.

Anna Harcourt is a twitching parody of embittered middle age that cleverly detracts from her own youth and attractiveness.

And now I’ve mentioned everyone except Sam Phillips who plays the hapless poet and lover Oronte, and Betty Chung who plays everyone else. Their characterisations are drawn straight from the traditions of Commedia del’Arte and they play them with great comedic timing.

All the young actors are easy to hear, understand and follow – this is a huge achievement given the rain on the roof, the extreme physicality of the production and the stylised, rhyming script. This, as well as the overall excellence of the production, is a credit to Willem Wassenaar, who has brought out the best in a very talented group of performers.

It is a tribute to the whole team that the original setting of this play and the modern interpretation of this production sit so comfortably in the same space. They made this look easy and I know that it is not.

*The problem with this setting is that the audience on either side have stage lights glaring at them the whole night. Not a good look, and one that could be overcome. 


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