They say laughter is the best medicine, and never a truer word was spoken for anyone who sampled The Hypochondriac; Roger McGough’s adaptation of Moliere’s classic comedy La Malade Imaginaire at the Dolman Theatre.
Mixing well-timed farce with comic verse, The Hypochondriac tells the tale of Argan, a 17th-century Frenchman who has fallen to the mercy of quack doctors while bordering on bankruptcy. Seeing a way out of his predicament by attempting to marry off his daughter, Angelique, to idiotic doctor Thomas Diaforus, Argan’s problems continue as his scheming wife, Beline, is getting impatient for his death so she can claim his hidden fortune.
John Sheen’s production of The Hypochondriac stirs up images of a comic-verse costume drama performed by the late Ronnie Barker with a cast of regional accents akin to ’Allo ’Allo.
Richard Dymond is fabulously pompous as Argan and is ably supported by Rachel Fenwick, Caroline Drewett-Mansell, Chris Bissex-Williams and Ryan Salter, all of whom have moments that raise a smile throughout.
However, it is Claudia Barnes who steals the show as the French maid with a Scouse accent, Toinette. Her reactions and responses to the other characters are a joy to watch, while her character takes a wonderful twist in the show’s second half, allowing her to function in a dual role.
Look out also for a wonderful pop culture reference to a famous hit by The Scaffold at the play’s conclusion which ties in beautifully with the storyline.
The Hypochondriac continues at The Dolman Theatre until Saturday.