London and Touring
A Tale of Two Cities
Adapted by Mike Poulton from the novel by Charles Dickens
Richmond Theatre until 1 October, thereafter touring
Runs 2hrs 35 with interval
TICKETS 0844 871 7651
Review: Tom Aitken, 28 September 2016
Dickens would have been pleased.
Much of the dialogue in this adaptation comes from Dickens himself, although a few expletives have been added here and there. My feeling is that, given his love of the theatre Dickens would have been pleased.
For a start, there is a very effective set. Sliding panels, movable stairs and other means of swift change allow the action to proceed, usually without interruption, from Paris to London and back again.
The immensely significant result of this is that a series of mainly short scenes follow each other without pause. Something is happening and new thoughts, comparisons and contrasts are being provoked for pretty well every minute of the two-and-a-quarter hours the play actually runs. We feel throughout that we are comparing and contrasting Paris and London and the attitudes of their inhabitants trying to cope with violence, betrayal and upheaval
James Dacre’s production, focussing our attention while allowing the actors to move from place to place and role to role without any sense of bittiness or confusion, seems close to perfect most of the time.
The actors, like the set, are constantly on the move, in the sense that most of them are playing multiple roles. The concentration of the Richmond audience, however, was never of the ‘what is going on?’ or ‘Who is he or she playing now?’
Much of this of this can be credited to Mike Poulton’s dialogue. It has a sense of period yet is lucid throughout. I treasure a woman voicing a feeling that must have been paralleled on either side of the channel: ‘I hate all foreigners as a good church-going woman should.’
For just a few minutes after the interval I felt a little lost. I was at trying to interpret the shouting that was going on, some of it, it seemed, directed at the audience. I am prepared to believe that this was a failing on my part.
Be that as it may, my sense of engagement was soon renewed.
I think overall, the strength of this adaptation and production is the sense it produces of people who know that change is necessary but are distressed enormously by the violence that they know, and partially understand, is also necessary to achieve that change. They are also tormented by a growing sense as the play moves to its close, that the change for the better which they hope for, is very unlikely to be more than partially achieved.
I would hope with some optimism that Dickens, gazing down prom his place in the pantheon, would be gratified rather than incensed by the actions of those who dared to reshape his work. After all, he wanted to be an actor, and he gave readings from his works, which apparently suggested that he would have been a very good one.
Noa Bodner: Madame Defarge
Michael Garner; Lorry
Jacob If an: Charles Darnay
Artie Mackenzie: Peasant Boy
Shanaya Rafaat: Lucie Manette
Patrick Romer: Dr Manette
Joseph Timms: Sydney Carton
Director James Dacre
Designer Mike Britton
Lighting Designer Paul Keogan
Sound Designer Adrienne Quartly
Movement Director Struan Leslie