In State Theatre Company’s latest production (4-20 November at the Dunstan Playhouse, Adelaide Festival Centre), award-winning young Adelaide playwright Phillip Kavanagh added his own acid humour to bring the characters and story to life.
It was digging through multiple adaptations of the play that he got to the heart of what makes both the comedy and the social satire function.
“I’ve been drawn to the ways in which all of the characters are so obstinately sure that they’re in the right,” the Flinders University graduate says.
“The sparks that fly when these rigidly held views collide, and the ways in which these views are wielded to promote wildly hypocritical actions, are what give the play the fire that saw it initially banned from public performance, and are what make Tartuffe so desperately funny,” he says.
The co-production with Adelaide’s Brink Productions also features other Flinders alumni, including recent drama graduates Antoine Jelk and Rachel Burke, and well-known actress Jacqy Phillips.
Kavanagh, who graduated with a Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Creative Writing at Flinders, went on to win the Patrick White and Jill Blewett playwright awards and selection for the Colin Thiele Creative Writing Scholarship.
As well as several STC collaborations, he also co-developed an original work called Deluge with fellow Flinders graduate Nescha Jelk at the 2016 Adelaide Festival.
“It’s always felt a natural process to write,” he says in the Flinders 50th Anniversary The Investigator Transformed publication.
“I remember having a conversation with a friend when I was a teenager and asking her what sort of things she wrote, and she just looked at me.
“It was the first time that I remember understanding that not everybody writes in their spare time.”
For the first time since their collaboration on the 2009 STC production The Hypochondriac, Tartuffe sees Brink artistic director Chris Drummond reunite with Adelaide’s favourite comics Nathan O’Keefe (The Importance of Being Earnest) starring as Tartuffe, Paul Blackwell (Volpone) as Orgon, and Rory Walker (Summer of the Seventeenth Doll) as Cleante.
Molière’s classic comedy combines adultery, betrayal, seduction, lies and deceit with the precisely organised chaos of farce.
Orgon leads a blissful, happy life. His extravagant and wealthy lifestyle is perfectly complemented by a marriage to a much younger woman. His daughter is engaged and his son is in love.
But when he welcomes the deceptively slick Tartuffe into his family, he unwittingly injects his home with a lethal dose of chaos. Nothing is off limits as Tartuffe exploits Orgon to pilfer his fortune and attempt the seduction of his wife and his daughter.
The stage is set for a riotous comedy in this latest adaptation of Tartuffe. Book at BASS.
An extensive collection of profiles on Flinders University leaders, students, graduates, researchers, academics and supporters can be viewed online at the Flinders 50th Anniversary website here.
The souvenir picture book, The Investigator Transformed, can be purchased via the Flinders 50th Anniversary website.
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