Monday, 18 August 2014

Thérèse Raquin, Aug 19, 2014 **1/2

Adapted from Emile Zola by Gary Abrahams
Dirty Pretty Theatre
At Theatre Works, Aug 16 to 30,  2014
Reviewer: Kate Herbert
Stars: **1/2
Full review also published online in Herald Sun on Tues Aug 20, 2014 and later in print. KH

The themes in Thérèse Raquin, Émile Zola’s 1867 novel, have much in common with soap opera – lust, murder and madness.

Gary Abrahams’ stage adaptation tends toward melodrama rather than soap, employing the histrionic acting style, heightened emotion, realistic set, and even the vivid, red velvet curtain of 19th century melodramas.

Thérèse (Elizabeth Nabben) is unhappily married to her cousin, Camille (Paul Blenheim), a whining hypochondriac who is pampered by his controlling mother, Mme. Raquin (Marta Kaczmarek) who treats Thérèse as a servant.

When Camille brings Laurent (Aaron Walton), his self-serving work colleague and former childhood friend, to the flat, Thérèse and Laurent begin a torrid love affair that leads them to plot and carry out Camille’s murder.

Thérèse and Laurent lurch from one emotional disaster to another, leading to their mutual demise – which again resembles a soap opera plot.

The early scenes resemble Chekhov’s naturalistic “scenes from life”, but the production rapidly and disconcertingly shifts from restraint to bursts of florid dialogue, the characters lose depth, becoming two-dimensional, and the acting loses any subtlety.

Zola’s characters have paradoxical, seemingly conflicting sides to their personalities – Thérèse is both mild-mannered and violently passionate while Laurent is mindlessly selfish but suffers terrible guilt – but these dichotomies lack nuance in this production and look more like split personalities.

The cast of seven is talented, but the acting is uneven and the style is unbalanced, with actors interpreting the melodramatic style in different ways and the final scenes lapsing into hysteria.

Nabben is pale and alluring as Thérèse with a sensitivity that works in the early scenes, while Walton is suitably louche and deceptive as Laurent.

The production needs a savage edit to reduce it from 140 minutes by perhaps eliminating unnecessary scenes and dialogue and tightening some slow and irritatingly clumsy scene changes.

By Kate Herbert 

Written and Directed by Gary Abrahams (after Emile Zola)
Set by Jacob Battista
Costumes by Chloe Greaves
Lighting by Katie Sfetkidis
Composition and Music by Christopher De Groot 

Cast: Elizabeth Nabben as Thérèse Raquin with:
Paul Blenheim
Oliver Coleman
Marta Kaczmarek
Rhys McConnochie
Edwina Samuels
Aaron Walton

No comments:

Post a Comment