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  • Print publication year: 2006
  • Online publication date: March 2007

16 - ‘Reculer pour mieux sauter’: modern experimental theatre’s debt to Molière


The contributors to this volume have demonstrated the impossibility of approaching Molière without also reflecting on how we read and view his work, how we understand it and construct a model of what it means for us. For example, Ralph Albanese has shown how advocates of laïcité in nineteenth-century France found meanings in Molière's work to fit their educational project of building a modern secular French identity. Noöl Peacock has demonstrated how Tartuffe has been appropriated by different British theatre companies as they develop their own cultural discourses - most notably in the case of Jatinder Verma's intercultural project with his 1990 production at London's National Theatre. Charles Mazouer has reminded us that a whole aspect of Molière's comédies-ballets (which represent almost half his output) has been neglected for centuries, only to be rediscovered in the wake of the classical music industry's promotion of baroque music. Like Shakespeare's oeuvre, Molière's has a protean quality, and each succeeding generation discovers a new Molière in its own image. The purpose of this last chapter in the Cambridge Companion is to explore some of the ways in which theatre reformers of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries have rediscovered aspects of Molière that mirror their own preoccupations and have found that one of the most effective methods of researching and developing new approaches to the art of theatre is through productions of his plays.