Tuesday, 8 February 2011

Lady Chatterley’s Lover ***

Lady Chatterley’s Lover
Adapted from D.H. Lawrence by Glenn Elston, Australian Shakespeare Company
Rippon Lea, Feb 8 to March 17, 2011
Reviewer: Kate Herbert

Novelist, D. H. Lawrence, would be delighted by the amount of naked, youthful flesh and blatant sexuality in Glen Elston’s adaptation of his erotic tale about adultery and lust between the cultured Lady Chatterley (Hannah Norris), and the rough-handed game-keeper, Mellors (Jamieson Caldwell).

The two actors gambol audaciously outside the Rippon Lea mansion, tearing their clothes off amongst the trees, capering sensually on tables and beds or under a rainstorm. Caldwell’s lean musculature and Norris’s pale flesh glimmer in the fading twilight.

As a student I was obsessed with every luscious and scandalous novel by Lawrence and Lady Chatterley’s Lover was his most controversial. Connie is bored in her sexless marriage to the pompous Sir Clifford (Soren Jensen), a wheelchair-ridden invalid while Mellors, a former army lieutenant, lives alone after the end of his marriage to a carping harridan.

Elston’s adaptation incorporates Lawrence’s passionate, provocative language as well as the electric, highly sexualised physicality of his characters. Caldwell is deliciously wicked, seductive, ironic and physically abandoned as Mellors and Norris captures the vibrating, wide-eyed need of Connie.

Several minor characters provide narration to fill the gaps in the story but the balance between narration and scenes is not quite right. The first scenes that set the background could happily be excised or condensed. The play really gets going when Connie and Mellors first meet.

This is a cheeky, robust production and who could pass up sensuality on the lawns at Rippon Lea with a glass of wine and a picnic hamper?

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