Tag Archives: Graeme Dalling

Captain Corelli’s Mandolin
★★★★

Rose Theatre Kingston & UK Tour

Captain Corellis Mandolin

Captain Corelli’s Mandolin

Rose Theatre Kingston & UK Tour

Reviewed – 1st May 2019

★★★★

 

“the musical interludes are moments of beauty that complement the theatricality and flair of this evocative production”

 

The scale of Louis de Bernières’ visionary novel “Captain Corelli’s Mandolin” is probably the main reason why it has taken a quarter of a century for it to be adapted for the stage. The multi layered and varied style of the epic narrative is a daunting prospect, but Rona Munro’s adaptation pinpoints the core of the story and, with a surgeon’s precision, cuts away the excess flesh to expose the rhythms of its passionately beating heart.

Director Melly Still’s adventurous production comes in two distinct parts. The first act comprises a series of finely composed vignettes that not only encapsulate the sultry atmosphere of the Greek island of Cephalonia, but serve also to set up the characters. At first we wonder at the hotchpotch of accents on display (from Irish, Welsh and Yorkshire through to RP) but soon realise the deliberate ploy to challenge stereotypes. We are not being asked to pass judgement, or decide who is the enemy, but to focus on the personalities.

Dr. Iannis (Joseph Long) has brought up his daughter, Pelagia (Madison Clare), on a diet of free thinking, which is now being threatened by the Italian occupation of their island. Meanwhile Carlo (Ryan Donaldson), an Italian soldier, tries to make sense of the invasion. Likewise, Captain Corelli (Alex Mugnaioni), an accomplished musician who carries his mandolin everywhere with him, only takes music, friendship and romance seriously. A reluctant soldier, armed with only his charm and his love of music, he is able to win the heart of Pelagia by his refusal to believe in the Italian invasion of Greece.

Although he doesn’t appear until the end of the first act, Mugnaioni lights up the stage with his strong presence, albeit a touch passionless. His slightly bumbling Englishness contrasts Clare’s feisty Pelagia who soon recognises his detachment to the military cause. But there is also a similar detachment to the relationship which, once ignited, burns slowly. More rounded is the relationship with Pelagia’s first love, Mandras (a brilliantly assured Ashley Gayle), that reveals the complexities of lost love in a more believable fashion.

The central theme of war, though, casts its shadow like an impending storm until it explodes with its full force after the interval. Mayou Trikerioti’s design comes to the fore as her simple yet evocative set of beaten metal morphs from the shimmering idyll of a Grecian seascape into the harsh smoky barrage of the battlefield. Jon Nicholls’ thumping sound echoes the waves of dance-like movement of George Siena’s choreography. The contrast is all too pertinent when, at a stroke, it overlaps with the relative peace of the village and the minutiae of their lives. And it is the finer details of these individuals that captivates most. Not just the people, but the animals too – Luisa Guerreiro threatens to steal each scene as the herb-chomping, affable goat while Elizabeth Mary Williams hangs upside down from a ladder as Psipsina, the athletic pine martin.

But there’s another clue in the title. And, yes, Alex Mugnaioni plays the mandolin exceptionally well. Superimposed onto Harry Blake’s pre-recorded score the musical interludes are moments of beauty that complement the theatricality and flair of this evocative production.

 

Reviewed by Jonathan Evans

Photography by Marc Brenner

 

Captain Corelli's Mandolin logo

Captain Corelli’s Mandolin

Rose Theatre Kingston until 12th May then UK Tour continues

 

Previously reviewed at this venue:
Dr Jekyll & Mr Hyde | ★★ | February 2018
Much Ado About Nothing | ★★★★ | April 2018
Don Carlos | ★★ | November 2018
The Cat in the Hat | ★★★ | April 2019

 

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Rope – 4 Stars

Rialto

Rope

Rialto Theatre – Brighton Fringe

Reviewed – 11th May 2018

★★★★

“hysterically funny despite its morbid subject matter”

 

Fans of Alfred Hitchcock will immediately recognise Rope as the source material for his 1948 film of the same name. But though Patrick Hamilton’s piece is of a slightly different flavour, it isn’t a stretch to see why it appealed so much to the Master of Suspense.

Set in 1920s London, we spend an evening in the lives of Brandon and Granillo, two students who have killed a young man named Ronald Kentley. There is no reason for the murder except to prove that they can get away with it. Brandon, the ultra-vain mastermind, refers to the deed as “passionless, motiveless, faultless, and clueless”, that is to say, “perfect”. However, Granno (as he is affectionately referred to by Brandon) is less than convinced that they are going to get away with it. Brandon has decided to host a dinner for several guests, including Kentley’s father, but to add “piquancy” to the affair, he has hidden his victim’s remains within spitting distance of the diners, in a large wooden crate in the middle of the room.

Most unusually for a piece of this kind, we start the play knowing exactly who the murderers are and, in a perverse twist, find ourselves encouraged to root for them. Brandon’s enthusiasm for “living dangerously” is infectious, and it is hard not to feel sympathy for the nerve-frazzled Granno who one suspects was never that keen on the killing at all. In a traditional suspense play, for example a whodunnit, we may not know exactly “who has done it”, but we know the formula and we know roughly what the conclusion must be (or what must be done to subvert it). So unusual is Rope’s conceit of letting us in on the secret immediately, that we are genuinely left guessing as to its trajectory until the dying seconds. To reveal the path it does take would be to give away too many plot points, but suffice to say the second half is just as surprising as the first, not always an easy task to pull off.

Rope is also hysterically funny despite its morbid subject matter; it is a testament to the cast that they are able so effectively to tread the line between humour and suspense. The central characters themselves operate as the embodiments of these two aspects of the play. Watching Graeme Dalling’s performance as the deliciously cold Brandon is like a joyride, and just as he marvels at the craftsmanship of his murder, so the audience are undeniably impressed by drama’s deft construction. Meanwhile the anxious guilt of John Black’s Granno perfectly echoes the nail-biting tension from which we are never free.

The piece is exceptionally well suited to the small space we are in; the claustrophobia of the apartment setting spreads seamlessly into the audience. The size of the place – as well as the number of people squeezed in – means that you are likely to find your view of goings-on significantly obstructed, but such is the nature of the play that this turns out to be a minor issue. Indeed, it almost serves to create the impression that we are peeping through a keyhole, seeing things that we shouldn’t be in the room next door.

Though the characters routinely reference Nietzsche and discuss over dinner the ethics of murder and war, there is no “moral” to Rope per se. We are left to draw our own conclusions from the actions of Brandon and Granno and test our own consciences against their professed lack thereof. This is fitting as didactics would undoubtedly dampen the play’s sense of dread, as well as our ambiguous relationship with the protagonists. Ultimately, though, much like the motiveless murder itself, the play aims squarely to entertain, and on that count, it very much succeeds.

 

Reviewed by Harry True

 


Rope

Brighton Fringe

 

Related
Other productions of this play
★★★★ | Queen’s Theatre Hornchurch | February 2018

 

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