Tuesday, 23 February 2010

The Misanthrope

A few weeks ago I went to see The Misanthrope at the Comedy Theatre in London. I had read mixed reviews of the performance, and as I had never read the play myself, I was unsure what to expect.

I admit I had high hopes. I am a fan of Keira Knightly and Damien Lewis, so I was particularly excited to see them in a stage production rather than just on-screen.

The theatre itself was beautiful and created the perfect atmosphere of anticipation. It was old, traditionally decorated with chandeliers, and small elegant seats.

However, and I am sad to admit this, I didn't find the play that impressive. It was amusing; even laugh-out-loud funny at times. And I love an evening at the theatre, so the overall experience was, yes, very enjoyable.

What was lacking, for me, was a sense of character development and a plot where something actually happens. I could say there was a lot of talking, but not a lot of action. I guess my criticism is more with the script than the acting itself. In fact, I felt all the cast, Damien Lewis specifically, were delightful to watch. His performance as Alceste was lively, sharp and intelligent. And Tim McMullan offers a fantastic caricature of a smug, smarmy and self-righteous drama critic aspiring to be a playwright.

But I couldn't get to grips with the purely dialogue driven style, and I was almost slightly relieved that the play has such a short running time. I fear the production oversimplifies the key question: how far should one discount individual principles in order to get by in general society?

This isn't by any means a bad play; but I have seen much better.

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