Photo: Courtesy of the Schaubuhne Berlin.
One of the most hated creations of the Classical French stage is the impostor Tartuffe, the false confessor, the spiritual guide, presented to us by the image of a gesticulating fanatic in a long black swirling dress and huge white collar, evoking Mme Pernelle, a Jansenist priest and a roaring Goebbels-like creature haranguing the audience about the qualities of this saintly man but using the vocal tones and gestures of a creature leading a Hitler rally . Exploding on Olaf Altman’s set like a fiery fanatic in bristling punky hair, this creature sets up the past life of Tartuffe and prepares us for the seduction and Christian martyr scenario that follows. Tartuffe arrives, dragging himself into the world like a tortured soul, seeking the most horrible vengeance , spouting hate and destruction from all his orifices. The die is cast, and the worst is yet to come. In this version, all is played out in waves of highly charged physicality. Director Michael Thalheimer , by transforming the family confessor into a sincere fanatic who never tries to disguise his tendencies, has created a creature that is more cruel, more relentless and certainly more dangerous than he ever was in the traditional version of the play. True power is played out within rituals that highlight sexuality, as Jean Genet has always shown us and this German production emphasizes that fact. The urgency of this political message is very clear. Molière has finally entered into the 21st Century, much to the delight of the younger members of the audience.