St Tom's Players
Church of St. Thomas the Martyr.
October 5th 2012
A cold and near frosty evening, was probably not the best weather to be sat inside of a cold and near frosty church in the heart of Newcastle's Haymarket area tonight.
However, Moliere's The Hypochondriac was in play, so the thermal undies and Everest proof fleece came out of the cupboard and adorned my goose-bumped limbs.
Centred around Argan (the hypochondriac in question) the play focuses on his health (his constant need for enemas, doctors and constant approval from his family and friends that he was indeed ill) and his up-man-ship with the family and friends in his approval.
His eldest daughter Angelique is in the bad books for falling in love with Cleanth, not because he is a bad sort, but that fact that he isn't in the health trade.
The obsessiveness of the condition and the general depressed state of our principal came in-between not only his closest family, but also with the family servant Toinette. She bent over backwards to get him to see that everything was all right with life, not having any of it Argan (Moliere actually played the title role when he wrote it in 1673) upsets the applecart even more by announcing Angelique will marry Dr Diafoirus's son Thomas (this of course is for his own selfish need, putting himself over and beyond his offspring).
It only takes devilish tricks from Toinette and some stern words from his brother Beralde to get Argan onto the straight and narrow to face and conquer his fears.
Purposely not looking and researching too much into this 'new for me' play I went into it with open eyes. I was very pleased with the concept of the play; especially the almost frantic second half, when all loose ties of Moliere's writing (and the new translation by Dermot Killingley) were tightened.
However, the shivers of the night were in evidence by some of the players. A few fluffed and prompted lines led to the slowing of proceedings. One player was particularly wooden, which was a shame as I have seen them perform a lot better before. This could be addressed for the rest of the run, to make a better crack at it.
All of this though did not and could not distract from the fantastic performance's by Bill Miller (Argan) and Cristina Nardini (Toinette), throughout the play they both held it together with aplomb a plenty, it is almost worth the entrance fee alone to see the interaction in the second half from these two.
Notable mention for Jimmy Hutchinson (Cleanth and producer) he played his love torn character and strummed his guitar with some good style.
Directed by Barbara Johnson, who could do with a little bit more of a firmer hand on the affected players, but when it worked it worked very well.
The little nip in the air of the church/theatre definitely thawed out in the latter stages of the shows' doings. An enjoyable taster of what the St. Tom's lot have to offer.
Hypochondriac is playing until Saturday 6th October.