book by David Wood lyrics by David Wood and Richard Taylor music by Richard Taylor.
Royal and Derngate (Royal auditorium) Guildhall Road NN1 1DP To 19 November 2011.
Mon-Sat 7.45pm Mat Thu & Sat 2.30pm.
Audio-described 15 Nov.
BSL Signed 16 Nov 7.45pm.
Post-show Discussion 8 Nov.
Runs 2hr 40min One interval.
TICKETS: 01604 624811.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 3 November.
A musical, and production, that makes the original novel seem to the manner born.
This has a lot going for it. Richard Taylor’s score is expressive, even with its deliberate limitation to piano played, fittingly, on stage as the music interweaves with characters’ lives.
There are no arias, or big production numbers, no grand explorations of feeling. Instead the story pulses forward with sung sections naturally intensifying each moment’s experience. Which is especially marked in Colston, the elderly, awkward version of young Leo who ran messages between a lady and a farmer during a holiday at a richer friend’s house in Edwardian England.
The most intense relationship is the anguished one between Colston’s young and older selves. Colston hurls Hartley’s famous opening line, “The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there,” angrily at his childhood self, whose innocent involvement with an adult world of duplicity has marked him across the frontiers of time.
The glorious, poetic yet unfussy production brings its own nostalgia, for the years when Roger Haines was one half of the directing team that made Manchester’s Library Theatre an essential playhouse. On Michael Pavelka’s russet set, its angled sides adding to the sense of remembered reality, as the mix of mansion and field recalls the action’s two main settings, with Tim Lutkin’s lighting playing off the sepia colouring and creating period photograph-like moments, this is a visually luxurious show.
Haines enriches the action, the main characters moving among lesser-identified figures, creatures from a stuffy Edwardian society whose rules must be obeyed, creating frequent moments of startling reality, which never delay the momentum as James Staddon’s adult Colston, bewildered and angry, wanders among the family.
Sophie Bould’s young Miriam speaks and moves with the alertness and alarm of someone secretly in love, joy or anger at extremes – though, like Leo, we never see the lovers together – as her mother Gemma Page eventually shows suppressed, sarcastic fury when she sees family honour under threat; Stephen Carlile as the wounded Trimingham is all stiff duty. The boys’ roles alternate actors; the two I saw were both strong in character and voice.
Hartley’s novel has founds sympathetic adapters. And an outstanding director.
Marian: Sophie Bould.
Trimingham: Stephen Carlile.
Mr Maudsley: Philip Cox.
Denys: Richard Kent.
Stanford/Leo’s Mother/Eulalie: Fiona O’Carroll.
Mrs Maudsley: Gemma Page.
Colston: James Staddon.
Henry/Charles: Chris Theo-Cook.
Ted: Stuart Ward.
Leo: Guy Amos/William Miles.
Marcus: Adam Bradbury/Richard Linnell.
Director: Roger Haines.
Designer: Michael Pavelka.
Lighting: Tim Lutkin.
Sound: Mic Pool.
Musical Director/Piano: Jonathan Gill.
Dialect coach: Helen Ashton.
Associate director: Simon Pittman.
Assistant director: Emily Kempson.