book and lyrics by Nona Shepphard music by Craig Adams adapted from the novel by Emile Zola.
Finborough Theatre above The Finborough Arms 118 Finborough Road, London SW10 9ED To 19 April 2014.
Tue–Sat 7.30 pm Mat Sat & Sun 3pm.
Runs 2hr 15min One interval.
TICKETS: 0844 847 1652.
Review: William Russell 3 April.
Murderous affair well executed.
Emile Zola’s Thérèse Raquin, published in 1867 and still in print, a story of a mad passionate affair which leads to murder, made his name as a novelist and remains as powerful to read today as it was when its portrait of suburban Parisian life caused a scandal.
Thérèse is young and beautiful, a sensual being trapped in a loveless marriage to her sickly cousin, Camille. They live in a dreary suburban apartment with his domineering mother who runs a small shop and controls the purse strings. Then into their lives comes Laurent, a virile, irresponsible school friend of Camille; he and Thérèse embark on an affair which leads to the crime that will destroy them.
Craig Adams’ music is powerful, tuneful and conveys both the tedium of life in Mme Raquin’s airless flat, where dominoes on Thursday with a terrible collection of tedious neighbours is the highlight of the week, and the pure animal lust of the lovers brilliantly.
I am less sure about Nona Shepphard’s lyrics which sometimes sound stilted and can be difficult to sing, but her “book” condenses the novel effectively, the mixture of spoken dialogue and song is remarkable, and her direction marvellously assured.
Designer Laura Cordery has come up with a superb set which encapsulates the apartment with its bric-a-brac and well-worn furniture, while allowing space for the chorus of three women – “fates” who comment on events – to materialise around the action.
As Thérèse, Julie Atherton smoulders silently away for much of the first half until Laurent bursts on the scene, after which she becomes lust personified as they attack one another like beasts on heat, all restraint abandoned.
Tara Hugo makes Mme Raquin suitably domineering and when struck down by a stroke at the end – she knows what the lovers have done – her silent rage is terrifying to watch. Jeremy Legat conjures up the selfishness and weakness of mother’s boy Camille to perfection and Ben Lewis as Laurent is perfect as the wastrel who takes what he wants regardless. The show, both unusual and rewarding, fits beautifully into this adventurous theatre’s space.
Thérèse: Julie Atherton.
Madame Raquin: Tara Hugo.
Camille: Jeremy Legat.
Laurent: Ben Lewis.
Michaud: Christopher Logan.
Olivier: James Simpson.
Suzanne: Lila Clements.
Grivet: Gary Trushaw.
Oarsman: Matt Willman.
River Women: Claire Greenway, Ellie Kirk, Verity Quade.
Director: Nona Shepphard.
Designer: Laura Cordery.
Lighting: Neil Fraser.
Sound: Max Pappenheim.
Musical Supervisor: Craig Adams.
Musical Director: James Simpson.