The Imaginary Invalid by Molière

Michel Didym takes on a classic for the first time in his career. He has chosen Molière and his Imaginary Invalid, and put together a fine cast.Friday 7 December 2018, 20.30, Théâtre Princesse Grace

All the darkness and depth of Molière's masterpiece are revealed in this production. Despite the humorous tone, there is a chilling clairvoyance to Molière's play that emphasises the folly of humanity, as Argan seeks refuge in medicine, in much the way that others might turn to religion. Michel Didym's interpretation of this classic sends a shiver down the spine, in view of current events. It instinctively inspires laughter, but the mirth often freezes, leaving the theatregoer with a somewhat curious impression when the curtain comes down. Molière and the Age of Enlightenment were precursors, claiming the right to mockery and caricature as early as the 17th century.

Michel Didym takes on the role of Argan, a taciturn, obnoxious character prepared to go to any lengths to save his own skin, including marrying off his daughter Angélique to a doctor. Argan is spurred on in his withdrawal by the prickly and mocking Toinette, played magnificently by Agnès Sourdillon. Jean-Marie Frin and Bruno Ricci perform a number of roles. Bruno Ricci in particular plays Thomas, the man chosen by Argan to wed his daughter, an immature daddy's boy who spends his time vainly smoothing down his wayward hair. The comic power of the production lies in these little details, the witty expressions and grimaces that, while perhaps not drawing belly laughs, remain decidedly delicious. From Argan's repressed anger to the clumsiness of Angélique and the deviousness of Béline, Michel Didym has fashioned a wonderful gallery of characters.

The stage is almost bare, decorated in a mosaic style of brown tones. Jacques Gabel's set design is classy and elegant. The armchair is the centrepiece. The interludes of this comédie ballet have been retained and set to music by Philippe Thibault. The final scene is a joyously macabre and funereal frenzy, a sort of sectarian celebration of the glory of medicine. All of the characters are garbed in black suits and hats. The scene drips with heavy cynicism, as does the play as a whole, a deep interpretation of Molière's classic work.