A clever Scottish take on Tartuffe at the Adelaide Fringe

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Tartuffe, a play originally by French playwright Molière was initially performed in 1664. Fast forward to Adelaide Fringe 2020 and we have a Scottish company performing Scottish playwright Liz Lochhead’s adaptation of Molière’s Tartuffe.



For those not familiar with, or wishing to have a recap on, Molière’s Tartuffe, it is the story of a religious imposter, Tartuffe who is taken in by Orgon. Orgon’s wife Elmire and the maid Dorine can see something is fishy about Tartuffe and want to both make Orgon see that but also halt the marriage that Orgon has planned between his daughter Mariane and Tartuffe. Early in the piece Orgon’s blind admiration for Tartuffe is made clear when he is seen not to care that his daughter has had a fever, has refused food and has needed medical attention when he continuously asks “And what about Tartuffe” after each piece of news is delivered to him.


Elmire tries to talk to Tartuffe only to have him confess his love and his desires for her. Valère, Mariane’s love interest and Dorine are eavesdropping and think that perhaps now Valère can convince Orgon that Tartuffe is not as pious as he seems.


Tartuffe tells the hilarious story of religious hypocrisy and women’s intuition, and men’s reluctance to listen to it and shows that it is just as relevant today as it was back in 1664 when it was first performed.



Liz Lochhead’s brilliant adaptation of Tartuffe brings us to a 1940s Scottish household and swaps Molière’s French text for Scots language (surtitles are even provided to help Aussie ears understand Scotisms that they might not otherwise understand). Just as Molière used witty rhymes, Liz Lochhead had used cheeky rhyming couplets.


Molière’s original version of Tartuffe, ou l’imposteur has more characters than the adaptation. In Molière’s Tarfuffe there are 14 characters. However, the Adelaide Fringe 2020 version of Tartuffe has just 4 on stage persona and the voices (or sobs) of 4 others that we hear from off stage. Apart from Orgon and his wife Elmire, the only other family member featured in this version is his daughter Mariane, who we never see but occasionally hear sobbing offstage.


This adaptation does not feature Orgon’s other family members: namely Madame Pernelle, Orgon’s mother; Cléante, Elmire’s brother and brother-in-law to Orgon; and Damis Orgon’s son and Mariane’s brother. Other characters who do not appear in the Adelaide Fringe 2020 version are:

  • Laurent, Tartuffe’s servant (non-speaking character)
  • Flipote, Madame Pernelle’s servant (non-speaking character)


While the adaptation may not contain the complete troupe of characters, it does not leave us wanting for them. The 4 characters who appear on stage and the 3 who we hear or to whom references are made from offstage are perfectly sufficient for this one hour performance.



This cast of 4 were fantastic in their roles. Joyce Falconer exquisitely embodies the gossipy, scheming (only to show Tartuffe for who he really is), maid Dorine. Her character is also a narrator of sorts telling the audience the house is in chaos and filling us in on parts of the storyline as it progresses.  The audience laughed from her opening line.


Orgon played by Henry Ward perfectly portrays the husband and father blinded in admiration for the trickster Tartuffe. Elmire, Orgon’s exasperated wife and step-mother to his daughter Mariane is excellently depicted by Nicola Roy.  She uses her womanly charms to prove Tartuffe’s true self to her husband Orgon in one of the pivotal and most amusing scenes of the play.


Director Tony Cownie’s Tartuffe, interpreted incredibly by Andy Clarke, is a sexual predator of sorts and is not just sleazy but threatening.



The action takes place in the dining room of Orgon’s Scottish family home in the 1940s. The set is simple but adequate – a table dressed in a simple white cover with a few chairs at each end and on one side. A tiny vase with a few flowers.


Liz Lochead’s Tartuffe is a delight and a wonderful piece of theatre to see from a UK cast in the beautiful surrounds of Holden Street Theatres at Adelaide Fringe 2020.



Matilda Marseillaise was a guest of Adelaide Fringe 2020



The beautiful venue of The Arch at Holden Street Theatres is one of the two former churches turned into theatres at the Hindmarsh space. Easy parking, a short walk from the tram which stops at the Entertainment Centre or a short cab/ola/uber ride out of the city makes this an easy venue to get to if you want some temporary reprieve from the hustle and bustle of the East End and if you want to sit in a structure with four walls instead of a tent. Support Holden Street Theatres during the Adelaide Fringe 2020. They have a number of performances across both their indoor and outdoor performance spaces.



You can see this Scottish adaptation of Molière’s Tartuffe at Holden Street Theatres as part of its Adelaide Fringe 2020 season. You can see Tartuffe daily (with the exception of Mondays) until the end of the Adelaide Fringe on 15 March.


Tartuffe is performed nightly except for Mondays (6:30pm between Tuesday 3 and 8 March and 9:30pm between 10 and 14 March). There are also some matinee performances: 12:30pm on Saturday 7 March and at 12pm on Saturday 14 and Sunday 15 March.


Adult tickets cost between $20 and $28 depending on which performance date and time you attend. Discounts are available for school groups and for Bank SA cardholders.


Tickets can be purchased at this link:



Have you seen Tartuffe before?


You can read other reviews of Adelaide Fringe 2020 shows below:

Piaf & Brel: the impossible concert


I’ll tell you this for nothing: my mother the war hero

Plastica Fantastica



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