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Mark Fisher
Edinburgh, Scotland, United Kingdom
Follow me on Twitter at MarkFFisher, WriteAboutTheat and LimelightXTC I am a freelance journalist and critic specialising in theatre and the arts. Publications I write for include the Guardian and the Scotsman. I am the author of The Edinburgh Fringe Survival Guide: how to make your show a success and How to Write About Theatre: A Manual for Critics, Students and Bloggers. I am also editor of The XTC Bumper Book of Fun for Boys and Girls: A Limelight Anthology. From 2000-2003, I was the editor of The List magazine, Glasgow and Edinburgh's arts and events guide.
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Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Educating Agnes review

*** Citizens, Glasgow

Mark Fisher
Friday May 2, 2008
The Guardian

A standard translation of Molière's L'Ecole des Femmes is a clunky thing. The French playwright's Alexandrine couplets sound awkward in English, the rhythms mechanical, the rhymes forced. But not so in Liz Lochhead's new version, the first major Scottish translation of the play since 1948, when Robert Kemp inspired a generation of McMolières with Let Wives Tak Tent.

In Lochhead's hands, the rhymes dance around this most wordy of comedies, fuelling it with energy, where others would drag it down. Occasionally, she will make a joke out of a blatant rhyme, but more typically she scores her laughs by swinging from highfalutin' to commonplace in a single phrase, making the rhymes a delightful surprise.

"It's a really crap idea," says Sean Scanlon's Chrysalde with comic bluntness in one such moment. He's just heard Arnolphe's plan to marry the virginal Agnes, believing her innocence will protect him from cuckoldry. From there on in, the script is characteristically magpie-like, as likely to reference Desperate Housewives and self-help manuals as to take poetic flights of fancy.

As a result, there is many a laugh in Graham McLaren's production for Theatre Babel, even if it doesn't scale the pantomime heights of a truly delirious occasion. As Arnolphe, Kevin McMonagle has the right balance of sleaziness and pomposity, pursuing his ridiculous experiment in social engineering with unstoppable arrogance. But impressive though his performance is, he doesn't have that crowd-baiting verve that, presumably, Molière himself brought to the part in 1662.

There are strong turns by newcomer Anneika Rose as Agnes and by Maureen Carr, her sharp-tongued servant, but you still come away feeling that the star of the show is the script.

· Until Saturday. Box office: 0141-429 0022.

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