JJ Mills’ Heading For A Wedding does for Molière what John Byrne’s Uncle Varick does for Chekhov. Interpret that as you will.
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Church Hill Theatre
It certainly makes the material much more accessible to theatre patrons who might have been intimidated by the notion that these writers are somehow for “highbrow” audiences, when they are really a lot more mischievous and entertaining than people might expect.
Mills’ obvious love of Vaudeville and Music Hall entertainment shines through in a script littered with endless groan worthy puns, mispronunciations and innuendos. Adapting four short plays by Molière; La Comtesse d’Escarbagnas, Le Cocu Imaginaire, Le Mariage Forcé and Le Médicin Volant, Mills basks in the 17th Century comedian’s love of folly and word play.
Yet the similarity of Molière’s play structures, (young lovers thwarted by misunderstandings that are resolved with a wedding) which were really just convenient vehicles for him to take pot shots at pompous people of the time, like clergy, local officials and courtiers, means that a full quartet of work is difficult to digest.
Particularly as Mills emulates the original’s love of jokes to such a degree that the great ones are lost in the midst of a volley of average ones. A sharp editor’s pen would speed up the tempo, energy and pace of the whole production immensely.
Overall, John Somerville’s directing is good, although the injection of a little more slapstick and some work on the way his actors carry themselves would do no harm. It would be nice to see, for instance, the escape of the young lovers in the background of play four while the valet confuses Madame Dorante with his twin antics, as the reason for the character’s continued distraction of the woman is unclear.
There are strong turns from Iain Fraser, as Sganarelle, and Graham Bell, as Alceste, while the rest of the cast acquit themselves well, even if there was somewhat more reliance on the prompter than there ought to be. The Edinburgh People’s Theatre, as a company, would really benefit from investing in developing their actors’ physical deportment on stage, it’s one of the key things that mark them out as amateurs and can easily be corrected with a little work.
• Run ends March 22