Thursday, 9 February 2012

Lady Chatterley’s Lover, Feb 8, 2012 ***

Adapted from D.H. Lawrence by Glenn Elston
Australian Shakespeare Company
Rippon Lea Estate, Jan 31 to March 8, 2012 (opening night Feb 9)
Reviewer: Kate Herbert
Jamieson Caldwell & Claire Nicholls in Lady Chatterley's Lover, 2012

D.H. LAWRENCE'S NOVEL LADY CHATTERLEY'S LOVER, was scandalous in its time and Glenn Elston’s adaptation captures its boldness, sensuality and dense, passionate prose in this outdoor romp staged in the grounds of our grand Rippon Lea mansion.

This 2012 production has more comedy than last year’s, with more cheeky winks at the audience, broad characterisations and playful interactions between characters that work well in the outdoors.

Connie (Claire Nicholls), fading to a shadow in a sexless marriage to the wheelchair-bound, impotent Sir Clifford Chatterley (Soren Jensen), hurls herself headlong into a clandestine, erotic affair with the surly, rough-handed gamekeeper, Mellors (Jamieson Caldwell).

I would argue that there is still too much of Lawrence’s prose used as narration between scenes and that some of it could be converted to dialogue. The long, opening scenes that provide narrative background for Connie and Clifford could move more quickly to Connie and Mellors affair, the core of the play.

Caldwell’s Mellors is youthful and muscular, played with a fine balance of sullen, Derbyshire workingman, playful, seductive lover and mischievous taunter of the ruling class.

Nicholls, starting as the sexually unfulfilled Connie, shifts from prudish and cool to full-blooded, confident sensuality and rebelliousness.

The audience is titillated by Nicholls and Caldwell repeated stripping and dressing, and thrilled by their cheerfully abandoned scenes of love, lust and naked flesh amongst the sunset-tinged trees of Rippon Lea’s gardens.

The cast of supporting characters include a broad and hilarious Mrs. Bolton, Sir Clifford’s carer, played by Olivia Connolly, and various minor characters and narrator played capably by Ben Kazlauskas.

Katharine Innes, as Connie’s flapper sister, Hilda, lacks the genteel vowels of the well bred, English 1920s woman.

Half of the fun for the audience, apart from tittering at the lusty games, and comical characters, is sipping wine and snacking on dips and crackers while being entertained on a summer evening. Make a night of it!

By Kate Herbert

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