Interview: Tartuffe

atartuffeTFTV are soon to take on one of  Molière’s most famous – and controversial – Early Modern comedies, Tartuffe. We spoke to Vision Deputy Stage Editor and lead actor, Steven Rowan Jeram, to find out more about the play, and his role as Tartuffe:

– What is the play essentially about?
“For me, Tartuffe holds a number of central dichotomies: a husband versus his family, religious hypocrisy versus religious extremism and outward appearances versus inward reality, to name a few. It is a classical French masterpiece that follows Orgon’s obsession with the ever-pious and apparently infallible Tartuffe; and his subsequent downfall as the fraud entangles him further in his hypocritical web. The play is an unabashed comedy, but something more serious is at stake.”

– How does TFTV’s adaptation differ from the original, how has it been modernised?
“The original was banned after the first performance and caused huge controversy! We will be performing a translation by Ranjit Bolt, first aired at the National. The script is friendly and accessible, as it unpredictably veers between slapstick comedy and high drama within the confines of rhyming verse. We are also setting the piece in modern day; after all religious hypocrisy has been rife throughout all time, from Henry VIII, to Rasputin, to the Church of Scientology.”

– How would you describe the title character, in three words?
“Hypnotic. Hypocritical. Handsome (of course, I am slightly biased).”

– What is your favourite part about the role? Does it present you with many challenges as an actor?
“Tartuffe is by far the trickiest role I’ve played to date. Thus far, purely understanding the character’s intentions has been the biggest challenge. He is undoubtedly a fraud, but is he a sick man? A cold-hearted trickster or an abused and impoverished man bent on revenge? Perhaps we should leave it up to the audience to decide.”

– Do the cast and production team feel pressure to follow on from TFTV’s success with Punk Rock and Motortown?
“Of course! But we aim to never disappoint. Molière couldn’t be further away from Stephens, and I’m sure the audience will enjoy and appreciate the vast challenges and differences between them.”

– Why should we come and see it?
“We’ve got big plays, an even bigger stage and a vast wealth of ideas and talent. Playful, energetic and outrageous: make sure you don’t miss the opportunity to see a classic with a modern twist.”

Tartuffe is on at the Scenic Stage Theatre, Department of Theatre, Film and Television on 7th March at 7.30pm and 8th March at 2:30pm. Buy tickets online at YorkStore, at Vanbrugh Stalls and in the foyer of TFTV. Combined tickets for Tartuffe and The Illusion are also available.