Wednesday, November 02, 2011



at the Mercury Theatre Colchester


Collaborations and joint ventures are familiar features of our theatrical landscape in these hard times, but few so adventurous, or as enchanting, as this Captain Corelli.

It is based on Mike Maran's magical story-teller's adapatation, and here Maran himself plays Dr Iannis, with his trademark deadpan, deliberate delivery. As if the thoughts and feelings are dragged from deep in his soul. But this time the other characters are not left to our imagination, but spill out from Maran's mind as exquisite rod puppets, worked by a talented team of ten puppeteers, who also occasionally act as the Cephalonia crowds.

We discover Iannis sitting cross-legged by his late wife's grave, sharing his wine and his thoughts, sketching in the political background and his personal pre-occupations.

Chief among them his sixteen-year-old daughter Pelagia. She is played by leading Georgian actor Natalie Kakhidze, totally convincing both as the innocent, idealistic teenager, and in the touching closing scene, as the grandmother who finally confronts her Corelli, a lifetime too late.

Mercury stalwart Tony Casement plays the Italian captain, in a memorable performance full of swagger and humour; musicality, too, though alas we never hear his mandolin. Gus Gallagher is Mandras, the illiterate fisherman and freedom fighter. Roger Delves-Broughton contributes several character roles, notably Roger, the British secret agent who effects Corelli's escape from the island.

The puppets also make their mark as the people of the island. Though it has to be said that from the back of the auditorium one would lose much of the nuance and the subtlety of their movements, and the exquisite details of their features [they were designed and made by Nino Namitcheishvili]. I liked round little Father Arsenios, and of course the audience's favourite, the little pet goat.

Levan Tsuladze's production, first seen last month at the Kote Marjanishvili Theatre, Tbilisi, was full of effective stagecraft – the candle-lit procession, the triumphant arrival of the Italian forces, the parachute angel, and the “Titanic” moment with Pelagia and Corelli on the motorbike, longing for the world that awaits them “after the war”.

But there was much intimate emotion too, like the scene where Corelli talks of symmetry, or the final confrontation between Pelagia and Mandras, who has kept her letters, and now has learnt to read them. I missed the tenderness of Carlo's love for Corelli, and his sacrifice only becomes clear here in recollection, but the heart of the story, and its lessons about love in its many forms, and about lives tarnished by war, survive strongly in this unique version. It ends, of course, with Iannis's headstone joining the others on the island, and his daughter walking off arguing with her Italian captain, before cast, puppets and puppeteers take their calls to the strains of Corelli's catchy theme-tune – Tornero.

Photograph: Robert Day

this piece first appeared on The Public Reviews

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Agree with your comments on Capt Corelli's Mandolin. Wasn't it marvellous?

But you have missed out the Waltham Singers carol concert in aid of Mencap on Wednesday 7 December in Chelmsford Cathedral in your Things to Come section!

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