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Tartuffe, unAfrican?

Lore Watterson is the Editor in Chief and Publisher of Creative Feel Magazine

When Sylvaine Strike brought Moliere’s The Miser to The Market Theatre a few years ago I fell in love with her work, her interpretation and direction. Seeing now her Moliere’s Tartuffe at The Soweto Theatre, I once again experienced the same admiration for this young South African director and her team, their production of Tartuffe is just brilliant.Tartuffe is an unsettling play about how a weak man is completely manipulated by a dangerous one. It’s ironic how relevant and important a classical, French play like Tartuffe is in present-day South Africa where there’s a strong call for ‘a new post-colonial, post-Fanonian, curriculum must be considered for the decolonised creative.’

This 17th century French political satire is as up-to-date as our #SaveSA march on 7 April 2017, the day after Tartuffe premiered at the Soweto Theatre. In 1664 (and again in 1667), Molière’s play was banned, not just because it mocked men of religion, but because it challenged the larger society of France. The hypocritical Tartuffe is the image of all who twist ideologies to suit their own ends; Orgon is the representation of all who let them. What Molière makes blindingly clear is that Tartuffe only has power because Orgon gives it to him. Both are – or should be – dangerous. But, for that, they need to credibly inhabit a credible world where the consequences of actions actually matter.

I so agree with the review that reminded us that ‘A play like this theatre classic Tartuffe, exploring the way in which people are easily manipulated by symbols of power and honeyed words, have a potent message at its core that is important in a time when the artist, cartoonist or satirist’s freedom of expression is not guaranteed, Tartuffe is as relevant now as it was then.’

Editor's note

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