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Perfect marriage of Moliere and 1980s; A rarely performed 17th century Moliere comedy timeshifted to the 1980s starts at The Belgrade tomorrow. James Rodger speaks to the theatre's artistic director Hamish Glen about The Sisterhood.

Byline: James Rodger

What is the play about? The play tells the story of Henriette whose intellectual mother, aunt and sister - the 'learned ladies' - cannot bear to see her throw her life away on the wrong man. Henriette's mother Philaminte heads up 'The Sisterhood', a circle of women completely obsessed with the intellectual, salon culture of the time. This obsession leads Philaminte to become convinced that she should marry her eldest daughter to an entirely inappropriate pseudointellectual poet - a self-professed genius who turns out to be little more than a posturing fool.

But, as with most Moliere comedies, there's a problem. Henriette is in love with someone completely different and has absolutely no intention of marrying the suitor her mum has chosen for her. Enlisting support from her put-upon father and uncles, Henriette sets about trying to persuade her mum to let her marry where her heart truly lies.

The Sisterhood is based on Moliere's Les Femmes Savantes or 'The Learned Ladies'. Tell us a little more about this particular adaptation.

When it first premiered in Paris in 1672, Les Femmes Savantes was considered one of Moliere's most popular comedies of the era. It was also the last of his so-called 'high comedies', which tended to be characterised by witty and satirical attacks on the society of the age. This particular version by Ranjit Bolt has been adapted into English from the original French and was first performed at the New End Theatre, Hampstead, in 1987 starring Lesley Joseph and Clive Swift.

What's interesting about Bolt's version of the play for me is the fact that it has been relocated in time from 17th century Paris to the late 1980s. Obviously this gives me a great deal of comic potential to play with, both in terms of the historical parallels in attitudes to women during the two eras and the music and style of the 1980s as a decade, from shoulder-padded power dressers to punk rockers and new romantics!

Love, marriage, the clash of new - perennial will never relevant I think all of us that are of an age to have lived through that era will bring their specific memories of the decade to the rehearsal room. A lot of our collective discussion of the 80s as a company has been triggered by the music. We've decided to set this production to a soundtrack of some of the biggest hits of 1987 - the year in which the play originally premiered - which will hopefully help set the tone for audiences!

Moliere is often quoted as France's answer to William Shakespeare. As audiences across the globe prepare to mark the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare's death, what do you consider to be the main similarities between the two writers? intergenerational conflict, the old and these are themes that stop being We are still talking about and performing both of their plays. Moliere was an instrumental figure in the theatre of his day and, for that reason, is very much a part of France's collective imagination. Both were actors as well as playwrights with a practical understanding of the world of the theatre, despite writing at very different times. What unites them above all, I think, is their ability to see beyond the particular to the universal.

Love, marriage, inter-generational conflict, the clash of old and new - these are perennial themes that will never stop being relevant.

Why should people come and see The Sisterhood? It's a liberating laugh. It's upbeat, it's positive and, above all, it's very, very funny. At its heart, The Sisterhood is a romantic comedy about a family at war with itself. I think that's something that most of us can relate to at some point or another in our lives. Then, of course, there's the added bonus of the retro score which is bound to appeal to any child of the 80s, as well as the wonderfully over-the-top fashions.

? ?The Sisterhood plays on the Belgrade B2 stage from tomorrow until February 20. Call 024 7655 3055 or visit for tickets.

power audiences prepare Love, marriage, intergenerational conflict, the clash of the old and new - these are perennial themes that will never stop being relevant


Hamish Glen

Rehearsals at the Belgrade for romantic comedy Sisterhood
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Publication:Coventry Evening Telegraph (England)
Date:Jan 29, 2016
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