In silk dresses, skirts, doublets, and jackets, the bizarre characters of The Imaginary Sick they go back to the seventeenth century. The critical comedy about medicine by the French playwright Molière (1622-1673) transcends four centuries after its publication. The latest satire of the considered creator of the French Comedy invades the stage of the Fernán Gómez Theater one month after the 400th anniversary of the writer’s birth. The protagonist fully trusts science, but his sister is skeptical. “She somehow adopts the role of today’s deniers,” explains its director, Eva del Palacio, who has kept the essence of the original text, but has added winks of rabid topicality.
His sister Beralda reproaches him for the number of pills he takes in view of the obsession he has developed for medicine. The fight between the brothers shows the modernity of Molière’s comedy, written in a century in which medicine was making great strides, such as the discovery of the circulation of the blood.
The curtain opens to welcome a hypochondriac and selfish man, who writes down with a pen the number of pills he has taken on a sheet of papyrus. Argán remains lying in bed, distraught by his supposed illness. The fear of death and pain have the protagonist prisoner of himself. He is the victim and executioner of unscrupulous doctors, apothecaries, charlatans and rogues who keep him medicated at all hours. “The protagonist’s doctor, Mr. Purgon, represents large pharmaceutical companies such as Pfizer and Moderna,” says the Madrilenian.
In fear of contracting some disease, the main character neglects the people around him, even going so far as to force his daughter to marry an unpresentable and dirty doctor to obtain medicines and prescriptions. She accuses him of wanting to make a trade of pure interest. In this way, Argán tries to save the exorbitant amounts of money that he pays for his medicines, which he considers his “salvation”.
Starting from comedy, pantomime and dance, the suffering that was inflicted against the sick at that time is also shown. “There were cures that made pure, sangrías and enemas, that were authentic savagery, and with that everything was cured”, says its director.
The achievement of exaggerated, surreal and hilarious scenes results in a discourse that delves into themes such as illness, suffering and pain, but with the humor so characteristic of Molière, because, according to its director, “there is no other way to bear the atrocities of the world ”. With techniques from clown and games, the work suitable for all audiences brings together more than a dozen artists, including lackeys and apothecaries.
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Live music and social criticism
The live music offered by the band on stage includes the creations of Miguel Barón and the original compositions of the composer Marc-Antoine Charpentier (Paris, 1643-1704) to the rhythm of instruments such as the piano, violin and lute. The melodies accompany the genius of the works of one of the great figures of the comedy-ballet. In 1664, King Louis XIV appointed Molière responsible for the amusements of the French court, a period in which he created The pleasures of the enchanted island and represented The princess of Elis. Before his work at court, the Frenchman “spent many years stepping on mud and going through miseries until he discovered how to catch the public with the comedy of art, mockery and laughter,” says Fernando Aguado, the actor who plays the protagonist .
The director has included a scene that turns into a nightmare in which an army of the dead appear, which imitates the acidic social criticism of the writer: “Death is always around us, but we don’t want to remember it and we want to forget it.” To which Aguado adds: “During the pandemic, we have experienced death very closely.”
The couple, who have been working together for 37 years, met at the Real Escuela Superior de Arte Dramático in Madrid. His company, Teatro Morboria, returns with a renewed staging of the classic, which has disappeared from the capital for almost two decades. One of the characteristics of his creation is the artisanal production of his wardrobe, from wigs to shoes, which takes the viewer back to the 17th century through a burlesque discourse on medicine and skepticism.
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