Thursday, 10 January 2002

Women in Love by Julia Britton, Jan 10, 2002

Women in Love by Julia Britton

Adapted from D.H. Lawrence
By Performing Art Projects & Australian Shakespeare Company  

at Rippon Lea  from January 10 through summer, 2002

Reviewer: Kate Herbert

D H Lawrence captivates the mind with his impassioned and controversial novel, Women in Love. It is a treatise on relationships, love, passion, friendship and the differing emotional agendas of the genders.

Julia Britton, in her theatrical adaptation, retains the battle of ideas within dramatised scenes. The script could benefit from a greater distinction between novel and script.

A major difference between theatre and prose is action.  Dialogue in theatre moves the action along whereas much of Lawrence's wonderful dialogue is static. We have little sympathy for the characters. The play is successful despite this.

The story is set in a village in Nottinghamshire. Two sisters, Ursula (Belle Armstrong  and Gudrun, (Carolyn Bock) both teachers, struggle with notions of femaleness, marriage, children and love.

Ursula falls in love with the ailing and cerebral Rupert Birkin, (Antony Neate) who is modelled on Lawrence himself. Gudrun, the cynical and sexual sculptress, has a fraught affair with the blokey mine owner, Gerald Crich. (Shawn Unsworth)

Lawrence is maddening. He raises hackles with his demented arguments about his idea of a perfect world. He spent his life searching for a Utopia, even in Australia where he wrote Kangaroo. He would have made a fine hippy.

The performances of the four leads are strong. Bock, as the brooding, waspish Gudrun, is magnetic. Armstrong plays Ursula with a spark of inner light. Opposite her as Birkin, Neate manages Lawrence's speeches with alacrity although he is a little to hale and hearty for the tubercular Birkin.

Unsworth captures Gerald's repressed passion and sadness. However, director, Rob Chuter's casting is odd as Gerald is clearly written as a bulky, Nordic blonde. As the aristocrat, Hermione Roddice, Penelope Bartlau is appropriately chilly and desperate.

The spectacular gardens provide exceptional locations for the scenes: the lake, the facade of the house, the candlelit ballroom.

Britton uses the character of Lawrence (Anthony Morton) as the narrator and commentator. He fills in parts of the novel not included in scenes. Some of his narrative interludes could be incorporated into dialogue. The narrator is also the vehicle for moving us from one glorious location to another in the Rippon Lea gardens.

By Kate Herbert

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