AS the curtain opens on Damien O’Keeffe’s very stylish production of Moliere’s The Misanthrope at Ilkley Playhouse this week, we enter an elegant world of cookery and conventions.

O’Keeffe has chosen to set his production within the fraught world of culinary competitions and each of the distinct characters reflects in some way the competitive edge of participants – the flattery and encouragement set against the drive to win and the temptation to sneer.

The plot revolves around the central character of Celeste. Rachel Conyers is magnificent in this part as she decries those who fawn and struts and shrieks at those who do. Her initial stand-off with the equally strident Philomena (Rachel Vernelle) sets the sparring tone of the play.

The object of their irritation is Sally Mann, (Vani Midgley), the hostess of the party at which the action takes place. As Celeste’s protégé, she struggles to deal with the attention of the media and so incurs the wrath of her mentor.

This play is a feast for the senses. Against the backdrop of David Keighley’s minimalist set, which is bright white and angular, the all-women cast, dressed in stunning black and white couture, appear bold and strong.

Tony Harrison’s poetic translation is rich with witticisms and satire creating mellifluous tones – at times as light and frothy as a soufflé and at others as dense as a chocolate fondant. The relationships between the characters are mannered and stylised – wonderful choreographed segments are designed to demonstrate clichés of both cookery shows and the affected nature of relationships between acquaintances. Multi-coloured lighting colours change the ambience of the piece, from frosty blue to cosy amber. Add to this a soundtrack which is instantly recognisable as French and the banquet is complete.

Moliere aficionados will delight in this sophisticated production whilst others will wonder at the spectacle. This is witty and amusing with lines that have been adapted to reflect on social media platforms, the Bake-off and Masterchef and even references the original playwright. Each member of this intelligent cast gives a performance which is polished and assured – special mention to Felicity Woodhouse who provides many of the comedy highlights and verges so closely towards slapstick that a food fight doesn’t seem out of the question.

This production will certainly provide plenty of food for thought and will leave audiences hungry for more. It runs until 17th March.

l Becky Carter