by Lorrie Moore adapted by Natalie Abrahami.

Gate Theatre above The Prince Albert Pub 11 Pembridge Road W11 3HQ To 2 October 2010.
Mon-Sat 7.30pm Mat Sat 3pm.
Audio-described 25 Sept 3pm.
Captioned 16 Sept.
Post-show Discussion 7, 16 Sept.
Runs 1hr No interval.

TICKETS: 020 7229 0706.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 2 September.

Theatrical flair rather than a necessary translation to stage.
It was only hearing it in Joseph Losey’s film that made clear the full meaning in the title of John Fowles’ most famous novel; the hush of shocked respectability talking of “The French Lieutenant’s woman. With the new Gate show the detail lies in the spacing. Cunningly disguised in the publicity layout, the focus is being an ‘other woman’: the stress and distress of being a mistress.

There’s no single location but the environment hanging around Natalie Abrahami’s production is one of those city boutiques where awesomely fashioned clothes at staggeringly fearful prices are handled by intimidatingly elegant sales assistants (though the idea of their being mere assistants seems incongruous). Samal Blak provides a minimal surround of racks that can turn and seem to consume the protagonist.

A beige raincoat is the sign of the woman caught up in an affair following a brief meeting involving a behatted lover looking like someone from an earlier decade’s noir. As the raincoat passes between the cast so they take on the role. And as the cast is all female, so the lover’s brief appearances seem doubly distant, with male stances demonstrated by a woman’s body.

American short-story writer (and more recently novelist) Lorrie Moore has created a number of such “How To…” stories, but not for the stage. Abrahami’s adaptation is always intelligent, often witty and captures the moods of hope, excitement, anxiety and inevitable let-down. At best it does so with a richness that illuminates the words – racks of clothing facing the audience through which heads poke and look inquiringly as the Woman spends a night in bed at his house, puzzlingly glimpsing someone else there.

At other times the staging relies on the interest of the individual performances, pleasantly but unnecessarily illustrating the script – unsurprisingly as it’s adapted from a story written to be self-sufficient. Fortunately, the four performances are vocally and physically strong, while the carousel of actors impersonating the title character gives an apt added sense of impersonality to a personal relationship, generalising the experience into that of all – or just over half ofchic Western – humanity.

Cast: Faye Castelow, Samantha Pearl, Ony Uhiara, Cath Whitefield.

Director: Natalie Abrahami.
Designer: Samal Blak.
Lighting: David Holmes.
Sound: Rich Walsh.
Choreographer: Aline David.
Voice coach: John Tucker.
Dramaturg: Lyndsey Turner.
Assistant director: Fiona Clift.
Assistant dramaturg: Elinor Cook.

2010-09-04 11:55:05

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