The Hypochondriak, Royal Lyceum, Review

Rating (out of 5)
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Sylvester McCoy, probably best known for playing the seventh Dr Who, is indulging in a little switch to the role of patient in the lead role for Hector MacMillan's translation of Moliere's Le Malade Imaginaire. Argan, constantly convinced he is at death's door, is at the mercy of the best medical minds of the seventeenth century, not to mention the false attentions of Beline, the doting wife who hopes to be a widow. Naturally it's the rich man's money they're all after. But we all know that his faithful servant Toinette will see him right in the end. Somehow or other.

This Scots version is a lot of fun. The idiom is the perfect vehicle for the different registers and the earthy comedy of the original French. Not every actor is as comfortable with the Scots as might be ideal. There is no getting away from the fact that this is still a leid under pressure to evaporate, though the beast is is still gey sweir tae dee juist yet, thank God. Carol Ann Crawford in particular, who always brings great virr and gusto to her roles in Scots, delivers the perfect pace and intonation and provides the perfect foil (for those who can) to bounce from. The early flyting passage between her and McCoy, with its quickfire exchange of insult and wit, worked a treat.

As is usual from a Lyceum production (at the moment) this is lavishly staged, though with a modicum of simplicity that makes it agreeable, at least in the indoor scenes. In the last scene the stops are really pulled out and sheer spectacle takes over. This is fine as far as it goes, and certainly entertaining, though it still suggests an element of loss of confidence in the script. It even works as a kind of theatrical memento mori, (though hardly the most profound we are likely to experience) since one footnote from theatrical history gives it a certain je ne se quoi resonance. In 1673 this is the scene in which Moliere (who was genuinely ill) collapsed on the fourth night and later died. The great man certainly knew how to write his exit! And this production might even catch at least a glisk of the paradoxically life-invigorating joyousness of the fact.