Brian Beacom

WHY would we go along and watch a 17th century play performed in rhyming couplets featuring characters a world removed?

Nicola Roy, currently starring in Moliere’s Tartuffe (adapted by Liz Lochhead into Scots) doesn’t have to think about the answer.

“The themes in the play are timeless,” says the Edinburgh-born actress of the opener in the new Oran Mor season.

“It tells of how we can be conned by a charmer into almost anything. And it reminds of how people in relationships sometimes don’t want to listen to the truth.”

Tartuffe, we learn, has inveigled his way into the lives of nice Orgon and his family.

Orgon is so caught up in the bromance he doesn’t have any idea at all that his rascal chum wants to marry his daughter - while at the same time seducing his wife.

Nicola, currently the face of The Lyceum Youth Theatre’s drive to funding less advantaged young people, plays Elmire, Orgon’s second wife.

Elmire is clever enough to know what’s going on. But she’s also smart enough not to demand her dim husband kick out Tartuffe straight away.

“She has to keep chipping away at him,” says Nicola, smiling.

“You can understand it. In a relationship ego kicks in. You don’t want to be told where you’re going wrong by someone close to you.”

It’s perhaps not surprising Moliere’s play was banned in 1664, not just because it mocked men of religion but challenged the larger society.

Tartuffe, the card-carrying hypocrite, represents the higher order who somehow twist reality to suit their own ends.

“The themes of hypocrisy, betrayal, being conned are universal,” says the actress.

And she’s right. You can almost imagine Orgon wearing a Make America Great Again baseball cap at at Trump rally.

But in making his point, Moliere accentuates the comedy, and the cast of Nicola, Andy Clark, Gabriel Quigley and Grant O’Rourke pull it off perfectly.

Nicola Roy understands comedy implicitly, as evidenced in her last Oran Mor outing A Change of Management, in which she played an office worker determined to transform a suspected paedophile into a eunuch.

“She was a great character to play,” she says.

The role of Elmire is one most actresses dream of playing.

“I love the idea of reading a script, analysing a character, then throwing aside my own reactions to a situation,” says Nicola, who is also writing comedy sketches at the moment.

In her most recent play, Enlightenment House, performed in the Georgian House in Edinburgh, Nicola played four female roles four shows a day - and the plays had a half hour overlap.

“That was tricky,” she grins of the demands of time travel, and remembering which role she was playing.

Now, she has the luxury of getting into just one head; the head of the pragmatic, cautious, clever Elmire.

But would she take an Elmire-like slow-burn approach to reproaching a partner?

“I don’t think I’d have her patience,” she says, laughing.

“I’m a bit more fiery when it comes to it. And if I were married to a man like Orgon I’d soon be off.”

Tartuffe, Oran Mor, until Saturday.