from an original work by Molière
Liz Lochhead's version of Molière’s comic masterpiece Tartuffe is written in a robust Scots dialect, while retaining the rhyming couplet form of the French original. It was first performed on 24 January 1986 at the Royal Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh.
Tartuffe, a pious fraud, is lodging with Orgon and his family, ingratiating himself to such a degree that they are initially blind to his true designs, which include marrying Orgon’s daughter whilst seducing his wife. When the family realise what Tartuffe is up to, they set about exposing his despicable plan. However, Orgon won’t be so easily persuaded, and names Tartuffe as his sole heir. When Orgon finally discovers the truth about Tartuffe, it comes too late.
In her introduction to the 2002 edition of the play, Lochhead gives an account of the play's development: 'In 1985 I began a version of Molière’s Tartuffe for Edinburgh’s Royal Lyceum Theatre Company. All I set out to do was a version for one production for one particular company: that it has had a longer life is an unexpected bonus. I thought it’d be in English for Scottish actors to perform in their own accents. The Scots it emerged in was a big surprise to me. Well, I’d set it at the end of the First World War, when small businessman Orgon could’ve made a lot of money and married a beautiful young widow; could still plausibly think he could tell his daughter who to marry; could still be head of a household with a maid. This was exactly my grandmother’s time and her guid Scots tongue was evidently inside me waiting to be tapped. Words I didn’t know I knew just tumbled out as I got on with the enormously good fun of my first attempt at a whole play in rhyming couplets.'
Lochhead went on to adapt Molière's The Misanthrope, reimagined as Miseryguts (Royal Lyceum, 2002), and Educating Agnes (Citizens' Theatre, Glasgow, 2008), an adaptation of The School for Wives.
The Royal Lyceum premiere of Tartuffe was directed by Colin MacNeil and Ian Wooldridge, and designed by Colin MacNeil. It was performed by Anne Myatt, Sarah Collier, Juliet Cadzow, Gerda Stevenson, Graham Valentine, Stewart Preston, Alan Cumming, Andrew Dallmeyer and Billy McElhaney.
The play was revived at the Royal Lyceum in January 2006 in a production directed by Tony Cownie.