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The Hypochondriak

Royal Conservatoire Scotland, Glasgow
Three stars
As openings go, when the cast of Ali de Souza's production of Hector
MacMillan's ribald Scots version of Moliere's seventeenth century
comedy, La Malade Imaginaire, come burling through the New Athenaeum
auditorium led by a bagpiper before launching into an onstage ceilidh,
it's a pretty strong statement of intent. What follows is an
accomplished and suitably larger than life study of how an old man
called Argan can take near masochistic pleasure in his imaginary
ailments. He is cured, not by quackery and a fondness for enemas, but
by waking up to his own gullibility as he's taken in by his
gold-digging wife Beline inbetween attempting to marry off his daughter
Angelique into the medical classes.

MacMillan's pithy and richly evocative dialogue is captured impeccably
by a young cast of final year acting students from the RCS, led by
Philip Laing's physically dextrous turn as Argan, who has some fine
comic interplay with Amy Conachan as Argan's maid, Toinette. As the
young lovers, Sara Clark Downie and Andrew Barrett as Angelique's beau,
Cleante, run rings around their elder charges, while there is cartoon
style largesse aplenty from Katie Leung as Beline, who two-times Argan
with Nebli Basani as a gallus Beralde.

There are a stream of doctors in the house in the second half of the
play as Argan is led towards his discovery. With the entire ensemble
donning mortar boards and cowls for the play's finale, the musical
number that follows as Argan ascends to Heaven wouldn't look out of
place in a Dennis Potter play in this fresh dissection of a play that
looks to be in the rudest of health.

The Herald, November 7th 2014


ends

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