THE TALENTED MR RIPLEY
by Phyllis Nagy adapted from the novel by Patricia Highsmith.
Royal and Derngate (Royal auditorium) Guildhall Street NN1 1DP To 9 October 2010.
Mon-Sat 7.45pm Mat Thu & Sat 2.30pm.
Runs: 2hr 50min One interval.
TICKETS: 01604 624811.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 30 September.
Talented adaptation takes time to come to life.
In her novels, Patricia Highsmith doesn’t so much shock as grip – tight. Like Ruth Rendell in her non-Wexford crime stories, what fascinates is the exploration of extreme and dangerous psychological states.
Which makes a problem for Phyllis Nagy’s stage version of Highsmith’s murderous conman Tom Ripley. It’s hard to stay involved with Ripley’s psychological monologues when they erupt not just in cheating but in battering an innocent, if foolish, American ‘friend’ to death, stabbing another who uncovers Tom’s trickery, and leaving a lover back home to take the wrap for earlier crimes; all in front of our eyes.
Though friendship and love are alien to Ripley, he can mimic them, as he can affability. Open or concealed gay sexual desire runs through his encounters, and he’s a skilful improviser when an explanation’s needed for his behaviour. Over-riding everything is contempt for the rest of the world.
The stage can’t easily show a world perceived by one warped mind within a realistic story, although designer Hannah Clark suggests the moral emptiness of Ripley’s world by the near-empty void of the stage. There are few realistic settings, while the boat where Ripley murders the man whose identity he then steals slowly rises higher over floor-level as the murderous intent mounts higher. In the second half, emptiness is prominent, full-height gold curtains surrounding the stage with depersonalised luxury.
Nagy’s version takes time to throw off its narrative origin; the first act has sections that sound like readings from the novel. It’s in the second act’s vacant environment her adaptation comes to life, as Kyle Soller’s Ripley puts his mind to survival in the Europe where he’s been sent by fond, and wealthy, American parents to track-down their son. It’s here his victim haunts him, he plays a kind of Crime and Punishment game with an old Italian detective (Chris Ravenscroft imaginatively creating a figure on the edge between experienced acuity and dulled habituation in the job), while reinventing himself as his main victim.
Soller oozes the surface charm that mostly works for Ripley. The others are efficient, but it’s never really their play.
Freddie Miles/Marc Primenger: Ben Bishop.
Fausto/Silvio/Reddington: Giles Cooper.
Dottie/Emily: Miranda Foster.
Richard Greenleaf: Sam Heughan.
Herbert/Roverini: Chris Ravenscroft.
Marge Sherwood/Sophia: Michelle Ryan.
Tom: Kyle Soller.
Director: Raz Shaw.
Designer: Hannah Clark.
Lighting: Anna Watson.
Sound: Carolyn Downing.
Composer: Olly Fox.
Video: Chris McGill, Tim Baxter (Dusthouse UK).
Movement: Georgina Lamb.
Dialect coach: Jan Haydn Rowles.
Fight director: Philip d’Orleans.
Assistant director: Caitlin McLeod.