Reviewed – 10th November 2017
“A faithful adaptation of the book executed with a boldness and flair all its own”
I was intrigued to see how a story carved from the expanse of the desolate Bodmin Moor and battered by wild wind and rain could be told in the intimate setting of the Tabard Theatre. The dim, misty lighting and Maira Vazeou’s set design – simple, yet containing the essential elements of the surrounding marshland and stark life – beautifully foreshadow this gothic tale by Daphne du Maurier. Set in the 1820s, it follows young Mary Yellan, recently orphaned, as she arrives at Jamaica Inn to stay with her aunt and uncle. Her headstrong nature embroils her in its sinister secrets and deceptions which she neither wants to discover, nor can resist.
Lisa Evans’ adaptation is impressively close to the novel, keeping much of the original dialogue and drama to maintain the suspense and balance. The small space is used to create a sense of claustrophobia and isolation, leaving the outside to rely more heavily on the imagination. The cast is excellent with an especially spell-binding performance from Helen Bang as Aunt Patience, while Anastasia Revi’s direction grips the attention from beginning to end through the ingenious use of props, movement, sound and character detail.
Kimberley Jarvis as Mary captivates the stage, often in tightly choreographed scenes which recreate the action and texture of the book and there is an effective interplay with her thoughts skilfully woven into the soundscape. The bullying figure of Uncle Joss, played by Toby Wynn-Davies, swings frighteningly from aggression to ominous charm, and Peter Rae portrays an intriguing Frances Davey, the local vicar.
On a technical level, the performance uses imaginative lighting (Ben Jacobs) and slick, original stage management. The sound design is a tour de force and the music, composed by Jonathan Bratoëff, enriches the work with both instrumental passages and songs, though occasionally this detracts from the harshness of the content. It is quite an achievement that only once does the space hinder the dramatic impact of the play, at the story’s denouement following a powerful build-up of tension. In addition, the short interaction between Mary and Mrs Bassat could have been a more engaging contrast to the surrounding urgency had Phoebe Hyder’s role been better defined.
Truly enjoyable and befitting the long, dark winter evenings, this production of Jamaica Inn blends fine acting with artistic allure and technical mastery. A faithful adaptation of the book executed with a boldness and flair all its own.
Reviewed by Joanna Hetherington
Photography by Panayis Chrysovergis
is at the Tabard Theatre until 2nd December