“A thick, golden-brown, brickhouse goddess of voluptuous lusciousness”
Marcus Gardley’s The House That Will Not Stand was something of a triumph for the Tricycle last year so it is little surprise that Indhu Rubasingham has returned to the playwright for a new production there, A Wolf in Snakeskin Shoes. An adaptation of Molière’s Tartuffe, it shifts the action from seventeenth century Paris to modern-day Atlanta and the world of mega-churches but maintains the air of hypocrisy around its lead character, here renamed Tardimus Toof.
Toof’s church is in a parlous financial position and having long sold himself as having healing powers, turns to fried chicken tycoon Archibald Organdy to lay his hands and fleece his pockets. His lascivious eye, which has wandered over many a female parishioner as he “undresses sin”, turns to Organdy’s mistress Peaches – a never-better Adjoa Andoh – even with Sharon D Clarke’s imperious wife a considerable presence both in church and at home.
Conscious of Molière’s style, Gardley splices his narrative with verse monologues and gospel interludes and Rubasingham invests these with considerable energy and real panache. This does lead to a certain unevenness with the scenes inbetween which sometimes fall a little flat, the move to a broader and broader sense of farce testing the boundaries of my sense of humour a little too much. But then I’ve never much loved farce even despite the name of the blog.
Lucian Msamati is perfectly cast as the larger-than-life Toof with all his swaggering façade barely concealing his con artist demeanour, Clarke and Andoh face off in what must be one of the most incendiary scenes on any stage right now and I really enjoyed Karl Queensborough as Organdy’s son with all his provocative dreams. When it’s funny, A Wolf in Snakeskin Shoes is hilarious but it doesn’t hit that mark often enough to be a genuine classic.