John Bell is playing the lead role in Moliere’s The Miser so I asked him how he gets himself into character.
“It doesn’t come easy being someone so miserable,” he responds.
But, Bell says, “Moliere is a very generous writer who always feels a lot for his oddball characters and believes we should try to understand them better.”
Of course, Moliere wrote most of his characters – the Miser, the Misanthrope, the Hypochondriac – because he revelled in acting out those characters himself.
Bell comments that The Miser “has quite a bitter twist to it” and thinks this is probably the reason it was not as successful as his other plays at the time, but it has since become his most famous play and the most often performed, along with Tartuffe.
Bell tells me that Justin Fleming’s script is very contemporary, written in a very Australian vernacular, “which is, of course, our preference as an Australian theatre company.” And this, he says, “really adds to the humour quite a lot.”
Why should Australian audiences come to see Bell in this role?
“Well, you could say because it’s going to be brilliant, but I can’t say that,” Bell laughs, and adds, “You don’t get a chance to see this play performed very often in Australia. It’s going to be quite a glamorous show, with extravagant design, and it’s going to be an entertaining evening.”
Most of all, perhaps, it will be for the pleasure of seeing how one of Australia’s finest actors tackles this complex role.
Mar 2-Apr 6. Sydney Opera House, Bennelong Point, Sydney. $35-$95+b.f. Tickets & Info: www.bellshakespeare.com.au
By Irina Dunn