Review - The Hypochondriac at Crucible Sheffield

ROGER McGough is in the pink, again...thanks to 17th century French comic writer Moliere.
The company of The Hypochoniriac - photo by Manuel HarlanThe company of The Hypochoniriac - photo by Manuel Harlan
The company of The Hypochoniriac - photo by Manuel Harlan

Poet McGough - a member of comedy group The Scaffold whose biggest hit in 1968 was Lily The Pink - wrote adaptations of three Moliere plays, including this one, for the Liverpool Playhouse where it was first performed in 2009.

And there's a nice self-mocking touch when the "efficacious" medicinal compound of the Scaffold song gets a mention to the joy of those old enough to remember.

McGough's celebrated version is all done in rhyming couplets which create a hefty dose of tremendous fun in this classic farce about a rich man with more money than sense - or maladies - as he seeks quack doctor after weird medicine to try to cure his ills.

Get-rich-quick physicians charge the wealthy the earth for fake remedies to false conditions.

The biggest roar of the night comes for the NHS - cleverly spelt out here as characters search for Non Harmful Surgeons!

Many of the rhymes are just as deliciously awful, while the sound of bowel movements are, shall we say, regular.

This is a rollicking romp, a satire with parallels for today over arguments raging about medical experts and why treatment often comes down to who can afford to pay.

But as the central character Argan - deftly played by the excellent Edward Hogg - says: "It's the quality of the suffering you pay for."

It's played for laughs and gets them. The cast impeccably dispenses the elixir, a cure-all to raise anyone's spirits.

Sarah Tipple's direction slowly sets the scene before keeping up the pace and rhythm with slapstick, comedic songs and send-ups of the comedie-ballet tradition from Moliere's origins.

Colin Richmond's fabulously messy, book-lined set reaches for the sky in the auditorium.

Jessica Ransom is wonderfully wicked as Argan's second wife Beline, plots to get her hands on her husband's money (the second time she's made a fortune from marriage) and banish his daughter, Angélique, delightfully played by Saroja-Lily Ratnavel, to a convent.

Argan is intent on forcing his daughter to marry Thomas Diaforius, the appallingly dull son of another doctor.

Garmon Rhys' hilarious portrayal of Thomas, with ridiculous genuflections and wayward hair, is laugh-out-loud funny alongside a sparkling Chris Hannon as Diaforius senior, pulling off a fantastic pantomime dance routine.

This was Moliere's final play, as he died after playing the Argan role himself in a performance in 1673.

Some 350 years on, McGough has prescribed a real theatrical tonic that continues to honour the great comedy playwright's legacy.

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