Charles Dickens didn’t quite do it like this, but this show is a phenomenal adaption of one of the world’s best selling books.
The action is not just adapted to a play, but there are also elements of film and dance in Ben Duke’s reworking of the story, that focuses on Lucie Manette junior (played by Nina Madelaine) and uses her as a way of exploring some of the darker material from the written tale.
The staging is stunning, with a set of a half-constructed house carefully allowing some sightlines inside while obscuring others and a roof that becomes a video screen for a subtle mixing of live and recorded action, playing with our awareness of where the actors are and what they are doing. Lucie is creating a documentary about her family, and she discovers many things that she may wish she hadn’t.
Valentina Formenti and Hannes Langolf take the roles of Lucie’s mother and father, while John Kendall portrays her brother – named after a man who twice saved their father’s life. Temitope Ajose-Cutting is the avenging Madame Defarge, seeking justice for the kidnap and rape of her daughter by members of the central family’s ancestral line.
The central players are perfectly cast, convincing as a family unit, and light and very funny at the start, but with deep pathos as the onion-layers of the plot are peeled back – Madelaine is especially sympathetic. The whole cast mixes strong acting talent with beautiful physical skills, including in captivating ‘slow motion’ sequences and some evocative dance interludes.
This is a highly polished production that is supremely confident in itself, and rightly so. Condensing Dickens down to just over 90 minutes is a challenge and there are deliberate choices in what to exclude, but most importantly this stands on its own as a modern tale in its own right.
- The Norfolk & Norwich Festival runs from 13-29 May 2022. For more information visit www.nnfestival.org.uk.