Kate Herbert is theatre reviewer, Herald Sun, Melbourne & formerly for Melbourne Times. Kate is a director & produced playwright (20 plays). Scripts published by Currency Press. She worked as an actor, comedian, improviser & teacher of Acting, Improvisation & Playwriting. Kate is currently Convenor of Professional Writing & Editing, Swinburne University. Read her reviews here or at: www.heraldsun.com.au/entertainment/arts. NB Explorer Browser doesn't always work on blog.
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
themes in Thérèse Raquin, Émile Zola’s 1867 novel, have much in
common with soap opera – lust, murder and madness.
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
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
Thérèse and Laurent lurch from one emotional disaster
to another, leading to their mutual demise – which again resembles a soap opera
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
and Directed by Gary Abrahams (after Emile Zola)