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the hypochondriac @ the eternity playhouse

If you’re sick of hibernating in the colder weather, then seeing THE HYPOCHONDRIAC by Moliere will remedy your malady and beat those Winter blues.

Hilary Bell has contemporised this farcical and satirical, classic play which was originally titled ‘The Imaginary Invalid’. Hers  is a fresh and fun approach, a riotous romp through the past and present day.  The production has been directed by Jo Turner.

The play premiered in 1673  and turned out to be Moliere’s final play. Moliere actually played the main role of Argan and ironically became very ill during a performance, collapsing with a tubercular seizure, and the curtain was rung down. He was taken home, never recovered and was dead within  a few days.

With his play, Moliere’s aim was to target the incompetence of the medical profession. Bell’s contemporisation  lampoons a pill popping society and the influence of the pharmaceutical industry who are in cohorts with doctors to over prescribe medications.

In Act 1 Argan has a deep concern without cause of his own health. He is selfish and obsessed with finding treatments for his imaginary ailments. His daughter, Angelique is in love with Cleante and tells Toinette, the maid. Argan, however has other plans for her; she must marry the son of Dr Diafoirus or else she will have to enter a convent. Argan has an ulterior motive, he wishes to have free medical advice. Meanwhile, Argon’s wife- Beline wants him to leave his estate to her, all the time pretending to adore him. Will love triumph?!

There is plenty of duplicity, deception and disguises to entertain the audience.

The setting is Argan’s home with a circular bed with pillows and a curtain whereby the characters make their entrances and exits. There is also a window.

Costumes are modern- from hospital gowns to lab coats. Angelique wears a tunic with black, patent shoes; Beline is dressed in a  red and pink mini dress with green, high court shoes; Mr Bonnefoy wears a pink suit jacket, white pants and white shoes and sunglasses; Cleante wears check pants, a black jacket, black shirt and sneakers; Thomas Diafoirus is in off white, socks and sandals with pens in his top pocket; Beralde wears checked red and blue shorts and reminds one of Clark Kent.

Props include a drum and cymbals, umbrellas, guitar, trolley, hoses, and a mop.

There is a lot of toilet humour with Argan having enemas and taking laxatives.

In keeping true to the original text Bell makes use of musical interludes, slapstick and clowning. She has added vaudevillian elements.

The effective lighting design is by Verity Hampson.

Gabriel Fancourt plays three roles; Cleante-Angelique’s love interest, gallant and devoted, who says, “Ïf your Dad tries to crush our hope, we’ll elope.”and also Bonnefoy- a notary who advises Argan how to bequeath his assets to Beline and  Beralde- Argan’s brother who thinks Argan is naïve and has an unhealthy infatuation with doctors. He wants to help his niece.

Sophie Gregg is Beline- Argan’s manipulative and evil wife who says to Argan, “When we met you said you only had weeks to live. I should’ve asked how many!”

Emma Harvie is Angelique, Argan’s  kind, affectionate and yet defiant daughter.

Lucia Mastrantone is Toinette, Argan’s servant who sympathises with Angelique. She is intelligent and autonomous, making snide observations and comments. She provides witty comedy. She is a clever schemer and bold and is not afraid to speak her mind. She has attitude. She says to Thomas, “Your patients will die of rapture.”

Jamie Oxenbould is Thomas Diafoirus- who captures the essence of the nerd like son of Doctor Diafoirus who is betrothed to Angelique by her father. He is a stubborn bore and not very bright. He  is a sycophant and says to Angelique, “What a privilege to be in your dream even if it was only someone who looked like me.”

Argan, played by the talented  Darren Gilshenan is a foolish, ridiculous and shallow father. He is temperamental with bursts of  comical anger and says to Toinette, “You’ll boil in oil.” He is tyrannical.

Finally there is Doctor Diafoirus played by Monica Sayers, who is a physician with a moustache and says, “Who needs sparkling conversation during a kidney operation?”

Seeing THE HYPOCHONDRIAC  will cure all ills and lessen the Winter chills. It is a finely honed production. The running time is two hours including interval and it plays until the 1st July at the Eternity Playhouse.



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