Molière, the great French playwright, wrote his comedy Les Femmes Savantes back in the late seventeenth century and it was written as a satire on academic pretension and female education. Over three hundred years later, and with a translation by Ranjit Bolt, the play has raised its head once more and now, known as The Sisterhood it can be seen at the Leicester Square Theatre.
Lovely young Henriette (Maria Austin) is in love and thinking about marriage to the handsome Clitandre (Matthew Marrs). This rather puts her at loggerheads with the rest of her family, particularly her sister Armande (Candice Price) who previously turned down Clitandre’s amorous advances as she wanted to devote herself to a scholarship. Armande does have problems believing that Clitandre and Henriette can be contemplating anything as foolish as love and scolds the pair for thinking the way they do. She gleefully points out that their romance is doomed unless they can gain the approval of Henriette’s mother Philaminte (Rebecca Bell). Trying to get allies, Clitendre turns to Henriette’s aunt Belise (Lia Hatzakis) but she believes ,the young man is instead declaring his love for her. Luckily, Henriette’s father Chrysale (Jamie Scott-Smith) and aunt Ariste (Katherine Hartshorne) are on her side. However, Philaminte is not a woman to be questioned – as witnessed by her treatment of maid Martine (Danielle Williams) – and has decided that she wants Henriette to marry “scholar” and mediocre poet with lofty aspirations, Trissotin (Richard Swann). With the very strong female half of the family against them, can Henriette and Clitandre’s love for each other win through and what will is the importance of a crane/plane in the romance?
The Sisterhood was originally written in verse and Ranjit Bolt has kept to this in his translation and this production is performed using rhyming iambic pentameters which takes a while to get used to but eventually settles down and works well to bring the story to life. A quick word on Lorraine Lea’s costumes which were absolutely perfect, providing a wonderfully accurate representation of each character’s personality. Although only an hour long The Sisterhood gets quite a lot in and Director Kate Napier moves things along at a great pace. I wasn’t 100% sure of setting the action ‘in the round’ but that seemed to work pretty well, though I’m sure there were times, particularly in the last section, when parts of the audience would have spent a reasonably long time looking at the back of some actor’s heads. However, that is a minor point and all in all I really enjoyed The Sisterhood as a lovely, highly amusing and surprisingly very contemporary play that worked on many levels. The casting was spot on and my two favourites were Richard Swann’s wonderfully camp ‘artist’ Trissotin and Lisa Hatzakis whose portrayal of deluded and totally unsubtle vamp Belise was fantastic to watch.
It struck me afterwards how interesting the play would appear if all the roles were reversed and if it would have the same comedic effect – maybe I should start working on ‘The Brotherhood’. However, until that happens, I really recommend you get along and see The Sisterhood.
Henriette wishes to marry the man she adores. Is that so much to ask?
Apparently so for this trio; her overbearing matriarchal mother; her intellectual, sexless sister and her downright randy aunt. These “learned ladies” have quite the different suitor in mind in the shape of a pompous, bombastic and self-proclaimed ‘genius’ of poetry.
Her downtrodden father is adamant to support Henriette in her choice of husband and so the war begins in hilarious and ridiculous fashion.
Set in a lavish Paris salon during the late 1980s, ‘The Sisterhood’ is Ranjit Bolt’s adaptation of Molière’s classic satire, ‘Les Femmes Savantes’.
not quite PRESENTS: THE SISTERHOOD
Written by Ranjit Bolt | Adaptation from an original text by Moliere
Directed by Katherine Napier
Featuring: Maria Austin, Rebecca Bell, Katherine Hartshorne Lia Hatzakis, Matthew Marrs, Candice Price, Jamie Scott-Smith, Richard Swann & Danielle Williams.
Playing to 6th July 2016