or : The Impostor
Programming / Comedy.
Do you know Tartuffe? Have you seen Tartuffe ?
It is a French work – in French – but in our various productions, of unequal quality – Tartuffe is in the best of them.
It is a comedy. Written by Molière in the 17th century – and as it is a little jewel of intelligence, this work has not taken a wrinkle.
Ah yes – perhaps on this social imperative that was imposed.
But the character…
But the abominable hypocrisy of the one who is the impostor par excellence – so this one is flourishing nowadays.
Here’s the story: there was a rich bourgeois family in Paris. The grandmother is what we call in France a holy water font frog : you know, one of those women who thinks that spending her life on the holy water font of the Church will offer her the graces of God – and since she sacrificed her whole life in a totally stupid way – she became unspeakably wicked – she is as wicked as she is stupid.
And as a result, Paris having been Paris for centuries – she can’t stand her family, so Parisian: dressing up, looking good and going out? What a horror! Joking, laughing, drinking coffee outside? Shame on you. Going to the show, dancing, falling in love? May the fires of Hell burn you forever.
Everybody gets insulted: her grandchildren – Damis, the boy, an insolent, scatterbrained, ignorant boy who thinks he’s clever. Marianne, a silly little girl who thinks she is beautiful and pretends to be in love – in love? but how in life can you think of being in love?
Her daughter-in-law – obviously – above all: Elmire? One b*** the old lady won’t say what, but she thinks it so strongly. How dare Elmire still be beautiful, this one, at her age? And attractive? And intelligent? She’s evil, that’s for sure.
Elmire’s brother, Cléante – we know them, the old Parisians, all debauched, lying, cheating … devils !!!
No, no no , our grand ma only loves, this old harpy, only her son: Orgon – who is too wonderful, cute, nice, angelic great……
And Mr. Tartuffe. Ah, Mr. Tartuffe, he is a good man. A man who respects God and religion, yes. You will never see him with his eyes raised, this man only looks at the ground. Never slightly pretty clothes – that man doesn’t think about it. Never a bad thought, nor a bad word.
Always there to remind you, piously, what you must do to honor the Lord God.
“Cover that breast that I can’t see,” he said to Elmire, laying his hand on it widely to hide this breast that only he could see.
She should have cut it off – there you go. The bitch.
If Tartuffe had been an honest man, there would have been no story.
Alas – Marianne is a very pretty young girl and as she grows older, she will surely become as desirable as her mother.
The family is rich.
Pretty prey for a deceiver.
Here is Tartuffe who is running his business – he first succeeds in breaking Marianne’s future marriage with Valère : he will be the future husband – it is better for this almost silly donzelle, he will be there to guide her towards holiness – and especially towards his bed.
He sacrifices himself, Tartuffe, for the love of the grandmother and the father, Orgon. He didn’t want to burden himself with a young girl – just think how boring a young girl is: it needs hugs, it wants children… kisses…. it’s exhausting – and it takes time out of the time he wanted to give to God.
With a big heart, he accepts and hopes that God will be grateful for his sacrifice.
It’s like all this fortune – what is it good for? God does not love the rich. Remember the story of the camel? That parable caused a sensation in France – already because a camel was not often seen in Paris.
And then to make a camel go through the eye of a needle, then there – it’s amazing – and so impossible that it’s better to be poor.
Tartuffe had Paradise for him.
Orgon was promised to Hell.
Poor Orgon – he didn’t want Hell. To avoid it, he accepted everything. But who would want his curse? It was no longer a fortune he had, but a scum that nobody would want –
Fortunately, Tartuffe was there – and he sacrificed himself.
To him, the fortune, the house, the furniture, the business – everything.
He would go to Hell.
And save Orgon and his family.
I hope you weep with tenderness when you see the sacrifices of this beautiful soul.
The family did try to defend themselves – they did try to make Orgon understand that he was prey to an impostor.
Elmire was Tartuffe’s greatest weakness – he wanted her in a completely bestial and sexual way. Who had said that you shouldn’t desire your neighbor’s wife? Oh no, but they were old people, that’s not true at all, that commandment is totally false.
Elmire manages to force her husband to attend a scene between her and Tartuffe.
And it was only when she was almost raped by the impostor that Orgon came out of his hiding place – destroyed: how? how was it done?
We are in the 4th Act.
The family has finally won.
And then not – too late.
All right, Tartuffe will not have the girl as wife and prey for life.
But he had got everything else: the fortune, the house, the furniture, everything.
But the notarial deeds? Are they signed?
It is the last hope of the spectator.
And yes, they are signed. They are valid. Too bad.
Tartuffe throws the family out on the street. He is rich.
All the spectators are horrified.
We had said it was a comedy.
We said it was a joke and that at the end we would have a happy ending.
The play started a long time ago and it’s very, very likely that this is the end.
The grandmother is coming: she’s going to help them, she’s going to understand what happened. Nothing at all – Mr. Tartuffe is a perfect man, he saved them from hell. We are at the end of Act 5. The hussier is here – the police will arrive.
Molière is a great author and his Deus Ex are prepared as soon as you enter the play – even if you don’t pay too much attention to it when you see it for the first time.
He had therefore opportunely placed the uncle/ Elmire’s brother: Cléante – the old Parisian good for the depths of hell by dint of being a Parisian of the worldly salons.
It is he who will allow the extreme limit of the end, to re-establish the situation according to morality – the true morality – and to really have a happy : happy ending.
Of course, this play caused a scandal and didn’t last long on stage – it came back afterwards.
How how, there are people who use religion for personal purposes? How do you mean, there are people who become unbearably mean?
How is it, in the intimacy, Tartuffe is a vicious, perverse person?
The fact is that in the France of the time, there were appearances that one had to have in order to be well seen by society.
Curiously, in today’s France, there are appearances and words that you have to have to be well seen.
If you don’t follow the codes, woe betide you.
Here is an English version – and I really like the staging – the beginning is quite good –
All in all, nothing has changed except the subject of the codes. The hypocrites, the impostors, it’s all over the streets these days.
So to see them on stage – to be able to laugh about it – because it’s a comedy – and to have the terrible fear of seeing them win in the end – because that’s a reality – that could only do us all good!
“Cover that breast that I can’t see: – By such objects souls are wounded, – And this brings forth guilty thoughts”.
Here are Rehearsals in London – for a bilingual version that must have been fabulous to see – I chose the trailer and the rehearsals because there’s one (one… more) thing that interests me – Altair’s girl : everyone cares about one thing: finding the heart of this new audience that is youth. So, the staging and use of modern techniques to make a French and English version – I would have liked to have seen that – and if anyone has seen it, to know if it’s as great as it looks.
It seems that I share this goal with many, many, many companies …
Featured Image : Tartuffe – by Christopher Hampton & Gerald Garutti