Review: The Royal Comedians (Molière) (Soulpepper)

Russian playwright Mikhail Bulgakov’s The Royal Comedians (Molière) brings the life of famous playright, actor and theatre manager Molière to the stage, famous for his plays Tartuffe, Dom Juan, and The Misanthrope, among others. Molière was a playwright, actor, and theatre manager, who led a tumultuous life. The Royal Comedians (Molière) is making its Canadian premiere at Soulpepper until September 21.

What it comes down to is that it’s a very entertaining show to watch. The performances are excellent: Diego Matamoros is excellent as Jean Baptiste Poquelin de Molière, and holds the show together. I also enjoyed any scene featuring King Louis XIV (Gregory Prest) and the comedic relief of The Honest Cobbler (Daniel Williston). I wasn’t familiar with Bulgakov’s work prior to seeing The Royal Comedians (Molière), and I found it to be equal parts comedic and tragic. It all worked wonderfully.

I loved the overall design of the show. The set appeared to be two simple sets of walls with several doors in each. These walls moved on hinges and were configured differently depending where each scene took place in. It was fascinating to watch how the same overall set could transform with the addition of a few other pieces, like chairs or a clothing rack.

The lighting, as well, was very interesting. I appreciated the historical accuracy of the candelabras for the “performance” moments (there are several “play in a play” sections throughout The Royal Comedians, which were the highlight of the show for me). They also did a lot of fun things with handheld lamps, and played a lot with contrast of light and shadow.

Despite my overall enjoyment, a few elements confused me. The transition music sounded a bit like 60s sci-fi themes, and I found some of the costume choices anachronistic. These were minor issues, however, and did not take away from the rest of the experience.

With its excellent performances and fascinating lighting and sets, The Royal Comedians (Molière) is a fantastic way to spend an evening. I highly recommend going to see this show before its run ends.

– The Royal Comedians (Molière) is playing at the Young Centre for the Performing Arts (50 Tank House Lane) until September 21, 2012.
– Tickets range from $32 (student pricing) to $68.
– Tickets are available online, by phone at 416-866-8666 or in person at the Box Office

Photo of William Webster & Diego Matamoros Photos Cylla von Tiedemann.