A FAREWELL TO ARMS
by Ernest Hemingway adapted by Andrew Quick and Pete Brooks.
imitating the dog Tour to 29 November 2014.
Runs 2hr 25min One interval.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 16 October at The Dukes Lancaster.
Apt and energetic adaptation.
Not every war-story is entirely and directly about the war – a point made in this centenary year of 1914 by imitating the dog’s version of Ernest Hemingway’s story, which, in its way, might be seen as an influence on Sebastian Faulks’ Birdsong, though that is more focused on the war years and their interruption of life and relationships.
War brings American ambulance-driver Frederic Henry and military nurse Catherine Barkley together in Milan. She’s the girlfriend of another trooper, Rinaldi, who fades from the action once the relationship between Frederic Henry and the nurse warms into passionate, and eventually unquestioning love.
Andrew Quick and Pete Brooks, two of imitating the dog’s trio of Artistic Directors, have turned Hemingway’s story into a highly-charged theatrical experience, as the wartime hospital echoes to the noise and chaos of war, and the history of Hemingway’s work is suggested in projected pages from the novel and visual images.
The novel’s been filmed twice, and onstage cameras aptly project characters’ images, creating a sense of dislocation as the visible angle of a character contrasts the different angle the camera sees. This, with the head-miked actors, creates consistent tension as the characters, in their intense emotions, are swept around by war.
The second act is externally less agitated, though the tension of an escape from certain death for Frederic Henry keeps the dramatic level up, until the horrors of death are replaced, post-armistice, with a protracted, and devastating, birth-scene, superbly performed by Laura Atherton as the agonised Catherine.
For all its sound and fury, war at least allows action; Catherine and Frederic Henry’s hopes and fears over the birth of their child leave them waiting helplessly. The production follows the change of tone, if not intensity, in its more focused, later approach.
This performance was captioned. The captioned script is displayed stage-wide above the set, rather than limited to an apologetic little screen. Given the melée in much of the action, and the reminders of the various forms in which A Farewell to Arms has appeared, the captions enrich the environment of this highly individual piece of theatre.
Catherine Barkley: Laura Atherton.
Priest/Chorus: Joshua Johnson.
Frederic Henry: Jude Monk McGowan.
Helen Ferguson/Chorus: Morven Macbeth.
Rinaldi/Chorus: Matt Prendergast.
Major/Chorus: Marco Rossi.
Directors/Andrew Quick, Pete Brooks.
Designer/Costume: Laura Hopkins.
Lighting: Andrew Crofts.
Sound: Steven Jackson.
Composer: Jeremy Peyton-Jones.
Projections/Video: Simon Wainwright.
Animation: Will Simpson for Omnipicture.