If Moliere Walked in the MOMA

KIERAN CORCORAN treads a thin line between sophistication and sophistry as he assesses a slick and sharp new satire.

coprus playroom Fiammetta Luino lateshow moliere new writing postmodernism satire

Corpus Playroom, 1st-5th March, 9.30pm, £5-6

Directed by Fiammetta Luino

[rating: 4/5]

This was a good idea and it worked. Co-written by Fiammetta Luino, the sarky ghost of Molière, and (I suspect) the postmodernism generator, If Molière Walked in the MoMA (I’m only saying the title once) is a successfully stabby satire on your annoying supervision partner the more ludicrous aspects and supporters of modern art.

The broad range of ‘arty type’ caricatures provided a welcome change from the commonly attempted naturalism. Fausses-connoisseuses Lexie Barton and mama Barton (Kesia Guillery and Juliet Cameron-Wilson) squeaked, fawned, swooned and pontificated with gusto over wry parodies of contemporary art: a crushed can of Diet Coke, a pumpkin full of drawing-pins, a lopsided jar of pickles. The centre-piece was an overtly phallic set of taps, which I actually quite liked.

Photographs by Yi Sun

Overboard acting was pretty much a necessity if the characters were to be louder than their costumes. The brightest and least compatible colours imaginable (harsher even than the slideshow makes out) adorned characters almost as garish and insufferable as the hues themselves. This vibrancy was aptly complemented by the blandiose whiteness of the backdrop. Praising the aesthetic too earnestly risks falling into the show’s own trap, but suffice it to say that the visuals are deftly-handled.

The only downside to the well-wrought set is that rearranging it in sometimes-lengthy scene changes hovered awkwardly between being a dirty little secret and part of the spectacle: actors bopped to interlude music non-committally in the half-light as they shuffled pedestals about – either the smart efficiency of a black-out or a well-lit shift fully in-character would have been preferable.

Nevertheless, once everything was in place, non-committal acting wasn’t a problem for anyone. Italian art-dealer-cum-impresario Bleff Kloons (Gregorio Curello) cut the most flamboyant figure as he hawked increasingly spurious artworks to madame et mademoiselle Barton, accompanied with enough ‘isms’ to make my supervisions on psychoanalysis seem tame and believable in comparison.

While it’s undeniably an achievement to sustain this fever-pitch of on-stage bullshittery, it did begin to lose its impact after a while as one postconstructivist pancultural paradigm (a.k.a. a blank canvas) segued into a succession of comparable absurdities.

The wonderfully sceptical Mr Barton (Freddie Tapner) was employed far too seldom – his mixture of deflating common sense and blunt non-comprehension helped vary the tone, making the heights of abstraction all the more laughable as a result. The script was never truly monotonous, but in the long gaps between bathetic plunges it risked being taken in by the very bluster it satirises. My ears also appreciated the occasional rests from the relentlessly piercing squeals of delight by the ladies Barton.

Luino et al. admittedly picked an easy target in gunning for the MoMA, but this isn’t gratuitous (well, only a little), nor is it philistine. The underlying parallel between the Emperor’s New Clothes fairytale and abstract art is an especially nice touch (both involve pretending to see something that’s not there so as not to seem a twit), and is but one of many indicators of a satire remarkably assured and accomplished for new student writing.

I’m not one for putting things on a pedestal, but IMWITMoMA (catchy, no?) really ought to be looked at. And heard, and all the rest. Molière would be proud.