Reviewed – 1st October 2018
“a creative and sophisticated production”
Hal Coase’s adaptation of Virginia Woolf’s ‘Mrs Dalloway’ opens with a meta-theatrical “pre-amble” as Emma D’Arcy and Clare Lawrence Moody tell us where they live in London and when they first read ‘Mrs Dalloway’. It is a bold and exciting beginning that plays with form, just as Woolf does.
It is the story many know so well, of course. Across a single day in London in 1923, Clarissa Dalloway (Clare Perkins) is getting ready for a party, a party that she will be hosting tonight. At the same time, Septimus Warren Smith, a veteran of the First World War is struggling desperately to separate fantasy and reality, and is looking for help amongst the very people who will later be Clarissa’s guests. It is no easy feat to adapt, but Coase has done a brilliant job, and under Thomas Bailey’s highly capable direction, moments of internal thought and external conversation are wittily punctuated and communicated.
As well as performing in the piece, D’Arcy is the joint artistic director of theatre company Forward Arena and is responsible for the design of all their productions to date. For Mrs Dalloway, this is simple, aesthetic and sophisticated. A blue patch of sky on the back wall is later joined by another patch of sunset. Cream costumes blend into a curtain. Portable cassette players create the bustling sound of London, an overlapping soundscape of people. Bailey creates the party scene with a row of microphones, a cramped panel setup that is highly evocative. Occasional nods to modernity in the form of an iPhone and an Oyster card could work, but stand alone as they are, they feel lacklustre.
The production boasts some wonderful performances. Moody is particularly good. She has a liveliness and a playful energy that she brings to each role in turn. Guy Rhys as Septimus lacks depth and is unfortunately unconvincing meaning the emotional impact of his plight has limited effect. He is, however, the only weak link in an otherwise strong cast.
This is a creative and sophisticated production on all fronts, well crafted and beautifully delivered.
Reviewed by Amelia Brown
Photography by Ollie Grove
Arcola Theatre until 20th October
Previously reviewed at this venue: