The Hypochondriac

Written on August 24th, 2016

Scatology on the Festival Stage

The Hypochondriac, which has just opened late in the season on the Stratford Festival Stage is full of scatological humour, but thankfully offers a satiric look at the medical profession which redeems it.  Otherwise it would just be Borat dressed up for the Festival Theatre.

The Hypochondriac is one of Moliere’s famous satires, written in French in 1600.  Moliere was an actor/playwright in France who loved to lampoon important institutions.  It is amazing how his critiques of society still ring true today.

The Hypochondriac (Le Malade Imaginaire) is probably his most autobiographical.  He was by some accounts, a hypochondriac himself, but totally disenchanted with the medical profession’s refusal to modernize. Sadly, not all of his maladies were imagined; he died suddenly at the end of a performance of Le Malade Imaginaire of what was likely tuberculosis.  Doctors, angry about the way he had skewered them, refused to treat him.

The Hypochondriac – On The Run 2016Stratford’s production is a newer version, based on a literal translation. Interestingly, it has been set up as a play within a play, taking place on the day of Moliere’s death.  Moliere himself takes the stage, playing the lead role of the hypochondriac, Argan.  King Louis XIV attends the production.

In the play, Argan complains about his health in his death bed.  But when his servant doesn’t answer his call, he is healthy enough to jump up and down on his bed and scream for her.  He is obsessed with his bowel movements and his urine production – thus we get all the scatological humour.  He decides to marry off his daughter to a dim-witted doctor so he can get free medical care.  Meanwhile, his much younger and scheming wife wants to send the step-daughter to become a nun, so that she (the underhanded wife) inherits everything on the hypochondriac’s seemingly impending death.

Stephen Ouimette is brilliant as the hypochondriac.  For fans of bathroom humour, his deadpan delivery is hilarious.  His on-going battle with his pissed off servant, Toinette, is priceless.  Brigit Wilson nearly steals the show in this role as the disdainful, disgusted maid.

The daughter, Angelique is portrayed with great charm by Shannon Taylor.  Trish Lindstrom is very entertaining as the duplicitous wife, hoping the hypochondriac will just kick off soon. Ian Lake as Thomas Diafoirehoea, the young wannabe doctor is suitably stupid and disgusting, adding to the fun.  Satire is present in the jokes about what it takes to be a doctor – just mutter a few words in Latin and you’re in.

Theatre goers will either love or hate this show.  If you enjoy potty humour and potty-mouth jokes about enemas and excrement, if you don’t mind seeing the contents of a thunder mug on the Festival stage, or if you can watch someone drink urine, then you will love this nonsensical show.  If you appreciate the mockery of the medical profession, then you can probably overlook the aforementioned and enjoy it!  But if all that sounds just too repulsive, don’t buy a ticket for The Hypochondriac.

The Hypochondriac continues in repertoire until October 14th at the Festival Theatre, Stratford.  Tickets are available at the Stratford Festival at 1-800-567-1600, or check

Photo: Stephen Ouimette as Argan/Molière and Brigit Wilson as Toinette in The Hypochondriac. Photo by David Hou.

The Hypochondriac
By Molière
A new version by Richard Bean, from a literal translation by Chris Campbell
Directed by Antoni Cimolino
Choreographed by Stephen Cota
Performed by Stephen Ouimette, Brigit Wilson, Shannon Taylor, Trish Lindstrom, Luke Humphrey, Peter Hutt, Ian Lake, Ben Carlson et al
Produced by Stratford Festival
Festival Theatre, Stratford
August 2 to October 14, 2016
Reviewed by Mary Alderson

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