Wednesday, October 30, 2013


New Venture Players at Brentwood Theatre

Among 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 Oliver.
No fewer than thirty-three scenes, and sixteen named characters, plus as many anonymous guards, lawyers, drinkers and tricoteuses …
The 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.
Dickens 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.
The 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.
Two 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.

No comments:

Post a Comment