The Hypochondriac, Almeida, London

No laughing in the green room please!
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The Independent Culture

Life played a fantastically sick joke on Molière when he was starring in the title role of his comedy, Le Malade imaginaire - ironically based on his own famed paranoia. In media res, he was taken ill, stumbled offstage and bit the dust.

Performed in 17th-century costume in a greenish paneled chamber - as if the room itself is feeling peaky - Richard Bean's new English version stitches that death into the plot's denouement. It also offer jubilant flourishes of toilet humour, including a three-man tug of war with a colonic irrigation pump, merrily taking the farceur's art beyond the pale. Alas though, such moments of physical comedy are few. Lindsay Posner's direction often seems clueless and it was surely incompetence (rather a hidden pun) that one had to strain to see the best visual gag - a medical jar on the floor containing a fetid stool. The musical interludes are painfully unfunny and Henry Goodman has been much better. Still, his hypochondriac Argan is endearingly crotchety, shuffling about in a lacy nightcap, and John Marquez is outstanding as his would-be rich son-in-law - supposedly a doctor, but a hilarious clot, all lank greasy tresses and nervous twitches. KB

To 7 Janunary, 020 7359 4494

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