Who better to bring that out than Andy Jones, turning 17th-century France into pre-Confederation Newfoundland, poking just the right
amount of fun at the grip of the church, and adding in a few “Sweet Jesus in the gardens” to set the scene?
Jones’ adaptation of Molière’s “Tartuffe” was how Jill Keiley opened her first season as the National Arts Centre’s artistic director of English Theatre in 2013, and she’s about to bring the show home for a five-city tour.
Robert Joy will star in the title role in “Tartuffe” alongside Greg Malone, Lois Brown, Alison Woolridge and others, mostly Newfoundlanders and many of them members of the original NAC production.
“I know they’ll influence and push each other to go further and further,” Keiley says of the cast.
2013 was Keiley’s second time leading Jones’ ‘Tartuffe,’ having directed it a year earlier when it debuted at Perchance Theatre at Cupids (then New World Theatre).
“Two hours of insanely brilliant showmanship that is witty, cutting and fierce,” is how the NAC describes the show. “A blazingly funny exploration of religious hypocrisy with a salty and distinctive Newfoundland flavour.”
Jones’ version of “Tartuffe” is a loose translation of the original, but adheres to the plot: vagrant religious fraudster Tartuffe weasels his way into the home and affections of wealthy war hero Orgon, sending members of Orgon’s family up in arms and setting off a chain of schemes.
Interesting fact: when Molière first presented “Tartuffe,” it caused an uproar in the Roman Catholic church and resulted in the Archbishop of Paris issuing an edict threatening excommunication to anyone who saw or read the play.
“It’s very, very funny,” Keiley tells The Telegram of Jones’ version. “Newfoundland is a place that’s steeped in religion, that knows very well the influence of the Catholic Church and any church. Religion has had a real grip on Newfoundland for a long time. Andy’s understanding of that is really great and he’s actually really respectful to religion as an idea.”
Jones’ cadence and use of old Newfoundland turns of phrase are his trademark on page and stage, and they are effective in “Tartuffe.”
“You got more lip than a coal bucket, my dear,” Orgon says to his daughter, Marianne, at one point.
With costumes by Marie Sharpe and a set designed by Patrick Clark - who’s “the best in the country for this kind of theatre,” Keiley says - “Tartuffe” will stop at arts and culture centres in St. John’s, Stephenville, Corner Brook, Grand Falls-Windsor and Gander between Sept. 28 and Oct. 14. A complete schedule and ticket information are available online at www.artsandculturecentre.com.
The tour will mark the first for NAC English Theatre in almost 20 years.
“Until now, only the NAC Orchestra has had the opportunity to play for Newfoundland audiences,” Keiley says. “Our audiences really went wild for Andy’s ‘Tartuffe,’ but Newfoundlanders have a love for our own language and turn of phrase that is ours alone.
“The very first version of (Jones’ adaptation) happened in Cupids a few years ago and I can’t help but note that while mainlanders delighted in this piece, Newfoundlanders actually reveled in it.”