A TALE OF TWO CITIES
by Charles Dickens adapted by Mike Poulton music by Rachel Portman.
Royal & Derngate (Royal auditorium) Guildhall Road NN1 1DP To 15 March 2014.
Mon-Sat 7.45pm Mat Thu & Sat 2.30pm.
Audio-described 12 March, 13 March 2.30pm.
BSL Signed 13 March 7.45pm.
Captioned 11 March.
Run s 2hr 35min One interval.
TICKETS: 01604 624811.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 25 February.
Novel adaptation with theatrical rather than dramatic flair.
Northampton’s new Artistic Director, James Dacre, opens his season with theatrical swagger in Mike Poulton’s adaptation of one of Dickens’ shorter (though not, by most standards, insubstantial) novel of Revolutionary France.
It starts splendidly; the opening trial scene sees the stage reduced to a compartment, judgmental figures looking from a raised area behind the main stage, where the legal battle is fought in a dark, congested space.
This flying start is aided by Michael Mears’ star legal turn Stryver, the barrister as magician, with brisk confidence producing evidential surprises like metaphorical rabbits from an invisible hat.
After which the surprises sadly stop coming in a rather laboured retelling of the story, despite some impressive visual moments in Dacre’s production. He certainly knows how to use a slow curtain, its descent gradually reinforcing the scene’s emotional force.
Both acts end this way, the second contrasting Sidney Carton’s ascent to the scaffold and the rising guillotine blade with the theatre curtain’s gradual lowering.
But Poulton, whose adaptations usually hit the heart of things with clarity, here seems to be providing a quick guide to a detailed plot, with stop-off points at the most famous scenes. Sometimes character wins through – Christopher Good as the long-term ancien régime prisoner has credibility with the crowds in Revolutionary Paris and uses it to save his prospective son-in-law, till even that credit slips away before the fiercest revolutionaries.
The cast work hard. But there is no space for the contrasting characters of supposed lookalikes Darnay and Carton to develop, while the full force of Carton’s “far better thing” at the final sacrifice can hardly arise from the sketchy character offered here.
And, when redoubtable English elder Miss Pross fights French mob mistress Madame Defarge, Defarge’s cry for help receives no response for ages, followed by a single shot that kills her. Again, just as Carton’s self-sacrifice will come as an isolated ‘big moment’, so Mme Defarge’s walk towards the audience, ending act one with her notorious knitting, smiling conspiratorially, suggests what this adaptation too often becomes: less an adaptation than a Cook’s tour of Dickens’ greatest moments.
Defarge/Attorney General/ Priest/Gabelle/Gaoler: Ignatius Anthony.
Sydney Carton: Oliver Dimsdale.
Dr Manette: Christopher Good.
Marquis/Judge/French Aristocrat/President: Christopher Hunter.
Lucie Manette: Yolanda Kettle.
Miss Pross/Jenny Herring: Abigail McKern.
Madame Defarge/Mrs Keating: Mairead McKinley.
Mr Lorry/Mr Stryver/Coachman: Michael Mears./
Barsad/Peasant Father/French Aristocrat/Citizen: Sean Murray.
Charles Darnay: Joshua Silver.
Peasant’s Son: Morgan Thomas/Finlay Trevellick.
Girl: Miranda Spencer-Pearson.
Ensemble: Will Adams, Catherine Briscoe, Charles Brixon, Charlie Clee, Janes Davies, Catherine Garlick, Vicky Kelly, Tara Lawrence, George Marlow, John Mitchell, Mo Shapiro, Tom Stone, Victoria Sye, Antonia Underwood, Sue Whyte, Benjamin Williams, Jude Wilton, Adrian Wyman, Diane Wyman.
Director: James Dacre.
Designer: Mike Britton.
Lighting: Paul Keogan.
Sound: Adrienne Quartly.
Orchestrator: David William Hearn.
Musical Director: Tom Brady.
Movement: Struan Leslie.
Fight director: Terry King.
Assistant director: Eduard Lewis.
Assistant director(Community Ensemble) Georgia Mannion.