THE MINISTRY OF FEAR
based on the novel by Graham Greene adapted by Daniel Jamieson.
Theatre Alibi with Exeter Northcott and Oxford Playhouse Tour to 22 May 2010.
Runs 2he 25min One interval.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 18 March at Oxford Playhouse.
An Alibi for Greene.
Theatre Alibi’s director Nikki Sved and writer Daniel Jamieson have been involved long-term with the company, developing Alibi’s interest in stories, both through pieces touring schools and community venues, and, each spring, undertaking nation-wide tours to mainstream theatres.
Alibi’s identity is fingerprinted right across Jamieson’s adaptation of Graham Greene’s wartime spy-thriller, in which an ordinary man stumbles across a (clearly Nazi) spy-ring by accidentally giving the password at a garden-fête – how wonderful of English society to be continuing those during the War’s low ebb.
This being Greeneland as well as England, Arthur Rowe is more than an innocent not quite literally abroad, but caught in a world of séances, murder and the madhouse. He carries moral guilt over his wife’s death: a mercy-killing that could still be debated today – though Greene’s more concerned with the inner workings of conscience than the law. Jamieson tell the story skilfully, with lightness and sufficient detail about events that initially seem puzzling and then form part of a larger picture.
These Alibi attributes are matched in Nikki Sved’s production. As with Kneehigh’s work, especially in its earlier days, there’s a sense of informality as actors are caught on the fringe of perception moving out of character, yet always manage to surprise by turning up in the right place as the right character at the right moment. It’s something that creates a playfulness, in the right sense, an enjoyment of watching the piece being put together.
That sense is there in Trina Bramman’s set, with a mysteriously moving tent and a central structure that aptly acts to distance or divide perception of some scenes during Arthur’s mystified voyage through events. And in Thomas Johnson’s music, the contrast of clarinet and double-bass driving, intensifying or providing a contrasting lightness to scenes.
It’s there too in performances, which somehow simultaneously have solidity and a sense of being a performance – which is what Greene’s characters here are frequently providing for each other. Jamieson and Sved haven’t cut the narrative strings – the story still seems escaped from the page – but they have provided it with an individual home-from-home.
Arthur Rowe: Chris Bianchi.
Mr Sinclair/Poole/Cost: Michael Wagg.
Mrs Purvis/Anna Hilfe: Jordan Whyte.
Mrs Bellairs/Rennit/Major Stone: Craig Edwards.
Dr Forrester/Fullove/Prentice: Derek Frood.
Willi Hilfe/Johns: Benjamin Warren.
Sax/Clarinet: Adam Cross.
Double Bass: Nick KLaughlin.
Director: Nikki Sved.
Designer: Trina Bramman.
Lighting: Marcus Bartlett.
Sound: Duncan Chave.
Composer/Musical Director: Thomas Johnson.
Costume: Beth de Tisi.