Tuesday, 24 September 2013

The Graduate, Sept 24, 2013 ***

Adapted by Terry Johnson from Charles Webb’s novel and 1967 movie
Her Majesty’s Theatre, opens Sept 24, 2013 for limited season 
Reviewer: Kate Herbert 
Review also published in Herald Sun online Thurs Sep 26, 2013. KH

Claire Lovering & Tim Dashwood
There are plenty of cheesy laughs in this production of The Graduate starring the lean and lovely Jerry Hall, but the show feels strangely unsatisfying – and just a little bit tired.

The play, written by the original director, Terry Johnson, was adapted from the naughty, funny and enormously successful 1967 movie starring Dustin Hoffman and Anne Bancroft, and written by masters of comedy, Calder Willingham and Buck Henry.

If you’ve been living in a cave and do not know the story, 21-year old college graduate, Benjamin Braddock (Tim Dashwood), is seduced by his parents’ married friend, Mrs. Robinson (Jerry Hall), and then, rather inconveniently falls in love with his middle-aged lover’s daughter, Elaine (Claire Lovering).

Jerry Hall looks deliciously elegant and sultry as the jaded and permanently sozzled Mrs. Robinson (think sexy cougar) and she delivers some witty one-liners with suitably acerbic disdain, although her character lacks emotional and dynamic range.

As her toy-boy, Dashwood is almost too good-looking and cool to pass as a dorky brainaic, but he plays Benjamin’s man-boy awkwardness effectively and elicits some big laughs in response to Benjamin’s slightly dated, sexual naivete.

The problem is that there is little or no sexual tension between the pair when their seduction really needs to sizzle.
Their comical lovemaking scenes are portrayed in a rushed series of bedroom vignettes so it feels as if there is not time for the relationship to develop, although it endures for months.

As Elaine, Lovering is charming and quirky with great comic timing and delivery, while Luke Hewitt is passionate as her distraught father, Mr. Robinson, and finds the greatest emotional, dynamic range in the entire show.

Benjamin’s character is not very likeable (didn’t we love Hoffman’s Ben?) because he is totally self-absorbed, rude, lacking compassion and never gets his comeuppance, so I wanted to shout at Elaine in the wedding scene, “Don’t marry him! He’s a jerk!”

Rob Howell ‘sset design seems to entrap the characters in a domestic prison, surrounding them with a version of over-sized, timber cupboard doors.

The production could use the music of the period to greater advantage, particularly that famous song by Simon and Garfunkle, Mrs. Robinson.

This stage version of The Graduate is almost sketch comedy in style, and will appeal to those who are not looking for a taxing night of provocative or artsy theatre but want a good laugh and a simple story.

The production first opened in London in 2000 and it feels as if the form got stuck and is now being directed by the numbers.

But, heck, the audience laughed at the old-fashioned quips and clapped like seals after every scene so it must be doing something right. Who am I to quibble?

By Kate Herbert

Original Director- Terry Johnson 
Australian Director - Jo Turner

Jerry Hall as Mrs Robinson
Tim Dashwood as Benjamin Braddock
Peter Houghton Mr. Braddock
Pippa Grandison Mrs. Braddock
Luke Hewitt as Mr/ Robinson
Claire Lovering as Elaine  Robinson

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