Thon Man Molière, or ‘Whit got him intae aw that bother…’ tells the story of Molière , the great French playwright, in an imaginative, entertaining and truly funny retelling by the poet and playwright Liz Lochhead, debuting at the Lyceum this month.
Having just completed a five year term as the Makar, Liz Lochhead now brings us a new play, Thon Man Molière. Inspired by The Life of Mosieur de Molière by Mikhail Bulgakov, Lochhead’s work beautifully intertwines Moliere’s turbulent wit, with dry and striking Scot’s humour. As Lochhead writes, “we might go a bit light on the philosophy, but at least here in Scotland Molière is funny.”
Thon Man Molière follows the life of Molière in the long run-up to the debut of one his most famous and controversial play ‘Tartuffe’. Molière’s life, as depicted by Lochhead, seems to often be as comical and farcical as his writing – full of double-meanings, scandal, confusion, lust and changes of heart. This is what is most enjoyable about Lochhead’s piece; sometimes it is hard to see where Molière’s reality ends and the worlds he creates begins. Enhanced further by the ludicrous costumes and at times dramatic design by Neil Murray, we are plunged into this world of drama and humour.
That is not to say that Lochhead’s piece is not firmly rooted in humanity. Quite to the contrary, Thon Man Molière, is deeply in touch with reality. Directed by Tony Cownie, Associate Artist at the Lyceum and who’s portfolio includes many works of commedia dell’arte, Lochhead’s piece, while at times ludicrous and absurd, still maintains a a tangible reality, and a sharp realness. The talented and skilful cast of Jimmy Chisholm, Molly Innes, Steven McNicol, Sarah Miele, James Antony Pearson, Siobhan Redmond and Nicola Roy keep the piece grounded, and handle Lochhead’s intricate writing with dexterity and subtlety. Lines trip of tongues, pacey and fuelled, not once does the production lull or lose our engagement. We swept along, and into this world.
The great thing about stock characters is that while they are often cliches, it is always possible to see ourselves in them, on one level or another. Truth is always there, and that is certainly the case with Thon Man Molière. Whether it be the reasonable nature of Madeleine, the lust of Micheal, the innocence of Menou, or the (sometimes blind) ambition of Molière, there are elements in all the characters that we can see in ourselves. Lochhead, Cownie, and the cast manage to retain the relatable nature of Molière’s tradition, ensuring that we can be full entertained while also engaging and empathising with each character. The naturalism which Cownie could bring to Lochhead’s use of Moliere’s techniques ensured the piece never strayed into the overly-obscure or absurd.
In short, Thon Man Molière is a truly entertaining and charming piece, and the beautiful writing by Lochhead is too good to miss. Comic and witty, while also poignant and sensitive, it speaks to us on any different levels. As Mark Thomson, Artistic Director of the Lyceum writes, “Molière talks to our [Scottish] culture and many Scots playwrights have enjoyed mining his truths and articulating his poetry” – certainly this is a homage to both Molière’s legacy, and the Scottish culture of theatre and poetry. You will be entertained, charmed, and left warm and comforted by the whole production and it’s team.
Thon Man Molière runs until the 11th of June at the Lyceum, including evening and matinee shows.