(seen at the first preview performance, 8th
DISCLAIMER: The performance started 20 minutes late, as
the cast had only finished the dress rehearsal at 6.30pm. The director
apologised, and noted that Act 2’s costumes weren’t organised either. That lead
to a 30 minute interval. A further “show stop” due to malfunctioning set meant
the monkey left the theatre at 11.30pm. With all that in mind, it wishes to
acknowledge the cast and crew of the show for going way beyond normal endurance
to give as a performance of an incredibly high standard, considering how tired
and stressed they all must have been.
On 13th July 2017, it was also announced that some
controversial scenes were also cut from the production.
The monkey therefore provides only a general opinion,
and would like readers to know that absolutely nothing negative said is any
reflection on the cast and daily crew involved.
So, this really was the best of plays and the worst of
plays. Director Timothy Sheader’s court-room scenes, use of the two-tiered
shipping container set (Fly Davis) and evolving sense of period are impressive.
Only problem is that the action isn’t always visible to much of the audience in
the side and lowest seats.
Unfortunately, the piece sprawls and Matthew Dunster could
do with taking a leaf out of several musical writers’ books and know when to cut
scenes and characters to concentrate and clarify the main story. If this has a
failing, it really is the lack of continuity as Dickens’s trademark hoards of
minor characters derail things. Further, the decision to parallel the French
Revolution with our current immigration and nationhood debates just seemed “left
wing propaganda,” and the dropping of the final religious line a little
Good performances from all the cast, notably Marieme Diouf
as Lucie Manette, Patrick Driver as father Dr Manette, banker Barsad (Nabil
Elouahabi) the Defarges – Tim Samuels and Claire-Louise Cordwell and Lorna Gayle
as Striver all do their best and often bring more than just life, but true
vivacity to the piece.
Due to the circumstances, the whole ran at a far lower
speed at times than expected (must note the gent who doffed his hat to the
audience at the re-start, nice improvisation) and so a full sense of drama was
sometimes sacrificed and had to be imagined.
Still, it remained for the most part fairly involving – the
second half more so than the rather shocking first (swearing, scenes of sexual
congress and lavatorial murder shaking the sedate Park audience into a 100
person or so walk-out, particularly those with children). A long haul, and not
by any means a working script, but will probably tighten as the run progresses –
and a revised version could be very interesting indeed.
Photograph credit: Johan Persson. Used by kind permission
of the Open Air Theatre.