"the gross and scope of my opinion ..." Hamlet I,1.
Wednesday, October 30, 2013
A TALE OF TWO CITIES
TALE OF TWO CITIES
Venture Players at Brentwood Theatre
the shows I was sorry to miss this year was a revival of the
legendary Gielgud/Rattigan adaptation of Dickens' epic masterpiece A
Tale of Two Cities. So I was particularly glad to try this home-grown
version done for the New Venture Players by their secretary, Janet
fewer than thirty-three scenes, and sixteen named characters, plus as
many anonymous guards, lawyers, drinkers and tricoteuses …
sweep of the novel is reflected in the staging, with an uncluttered
multi-level acting area, and some lovely pen-and-ink slides [Dennis
Foster] to keep the audience clued up.
himself appears to tell the tale [Vernon Keeble-Watson obscured by a
beard and wig] and the author's spirit was alive in several
characterizations – James Biddles as Jarvis Lorry, Ian Russell's
Stryver, Janet Oliver's doughty Miss Pross, Alex Muckersie's
Defarges, Lin Pollitt very strong as his fanatical wife, and in one
of the few comedy roles in this story, Dennis Foster as Jerry
Cruncher, looking for all the world like a caricature from Phiz. He
had the best boots, too.
two young men at the heart of the intrigue were Richard Spong's
anguished aristocrat and Neil Gray's lawyer's clerk, who made a fine
job of the famous closing lines.
problems have to be solved for a convincing adaptation of this work –
how the French should speak [Dickens himself struggled here, but
Allo Allo is probably better avoided] and how to handle the
scene changes. We needed more pace, more music, fewer slow fades to
black, and more energy from the actors. The
tavern, and the trial, could have been set much earlier, for example.
But the journey
from Shooters' Hill to the guillotine, the struggles of the
revolutionaries, Carton's sacrifice and the tragic fate of the
Manettes are the very stuff of drama, even if this production fell
somewhat short of Dickens' vision.