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  • Marika Page

★★★★★ The Hypochondriac Proves That Laughter Certainly is the Best Medicine

Edward Hogg (Argan) in The Hypochondriac. Photography by Manuel Harlan.

Molière’s final play, La Malade Imaginaire (here titled The Hypochondriac) adapted by Roger McGough, opened on Thursday night at the Crucible to a flourish of laughter. A witty, comical farce originally written by the French playwright in 1673. It tells the story of Argan (Edward Hogg) who is fixated on his own health and so directs his wealth and resources towards frequent consultations with the family doctor. As Argan becomes continually obsessed and his medical expenses accumulate, his household becomes increasingly annoyed by his eccentricities. This Sheffield Theatres production is an absolute standout, with laughter and a phenomenally funny and talented cast.

Director Sarah Tipple utilized the entirety of the Crucible's stage with an engaging cast and live music, which was complemented by Colin Richmond's visually beautiful costumers and stunning set design, including period furniture, a grand piano, and paintings. Coming out of every corner of the set featured a hodge podge of glass bottles, chamber pots, and parchment paper, which effectively created a sense of messy grandeur and perfectly set the scene for the show to follow. A walkway surrounds the set, which allows the cast to move around intimately and freely in front of the audience, also creating another space outside of the main ‘room’ of the set.

Roger McGough's adaptation injected a contemporary twist into the play, seamlessly weaving in current themes, delightful rhyming couplets, and a captivating repertoire of songs and music. Although the duration of the first act is relatively lengthy and could have been more concise or evenly distributed between the second act, the entire play involves rapid humour and subtle gestures. If you happen to blink or take a sip of your drink, you might miss some of its clever moments.

Jessica Ransom, Edward Hogg and André Refig in The Hypochondriac. Photography by Manuel Harlan.

The cast is a wonder. Edward Hogg finds Argan a perfect balance of sympathy and obnoxiousness. Zweyla Mitchell dos Santos shone brilliantly as Toinette, adeptly assuming the roles of both the character who sets Argan straight and the clever 'Italian Doctor' who knocks at the door to shake things up. Saroja-Lily Ratnavel and Zak Ghazi-Torbati, as Angelique and Cleante, had the audience in stitches during their impromptu duet, showcasing their comedic chemistry. Jessica Ransom delivered a deliciously villainous performance as Argan's second wife, Beline.

A standout moment was the entrance of Chris Hannon and Garmon Rhys as Doctor Diaforius and his son Thomas Diaforius. It sent the audience into fits of laughter, without giving away any spoilers—it simply stole the show. The entire cast received a standing ovation last night and it was well deserved.

The play is delightful, witty, and memorable and I wholeheartedly recommend a viewing of it before it closes on the 21st of this month.

The Hypochondriac is at the Crucible until Saturday 21st October. Tickets are still available here.


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