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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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Plastic – 5 Stars



Old Red Lion Theatre

Reviewed – 6th April 2018


“like a heartbeat that lived throughout and breathed life into the entire performance”


Plastic opens with an energetic promise of what today could be: “a Reebok classic of a day”, and then the audience are propelled into a nostalgic yet familiar sense of the promise and possibility of what it means to be young. You could be a legend. Or you could be a loser. What you once were and what you will be. But in which order?

First we meet Kev (Mark Weinman) who animatedly chronicles in delicious detail the legacy he left at school as “a football legend”. The type of lad boys wanted to be mates with and all the girls fancied. Weinman presents a character who is instantly likeable, and as the story progresses the audience get an increasing sense that life may not have delivered on all its promises set up in the school playground. Until he meets Lisa (skilfully played by Madison Clare), a gutsy sixteen year old schoolgirl who seems to represent all Kev had and still wants to be. Weinman and Clare perfectly encapsulate the all encompassing nervy experience of carefully navigating your first relationship, and how it can be public property for whispering gossip and ridicule in the school halls.

Alongside this evolving relationship between Kev and Lisa, there is another between two loyal school friends Jack (Louis Greatorex) and Ben (Thomas Coombes). Jack and Ben are in the same year as Lisa but bumped down a few pegs lower on the school’s hierarchy. Their friendship is one of both survival and of genuine admiration for each other. They help each other dodge the bullies and cling onto their childhood friendship with Lisa as their bridge between them and their more popular peers.

Ben is being bullied and every day is a balancing act of avoiding attacks and trying to show that they aren’t getting to him. Thomas Coombes delivers a speech detailing the painful goings on during a science lesson that has every audience member holding their breath in solidarity.

The cast give a real lesson in what it means to perform as an ensemble, with every transition between moments being seamless. The direction from Josh Roche was clear; he carefully drove the story at quite a pace, whilst simultaneously giving the more tender moments the breathing space they required, which meant that in turn that audience were absolutely present and engaged throughout.

The play itself, written by Kenneth Emson, was like nothing I had ever seen before. The text was poem-like with rhyming couplets in parts and was hugely evocative and visual;  It had its own rhythm, like a heartbeat that lived throughout and breathed life into the entire performance.

The relationships forged onstage were absolutely believable, provoking raucous laughter from the audience in parts and in other more tender and grisly moments the silence was loaded. There wasn’t a moment that didn’t belong to the characters onstage. The emotional truth in all characters was both staggering and mesmerising, with a particular nod to Madison Clare whose performance as Lisa left the audience reeling in wonder.


Reviewed for thespyinthestalls.com

Photography by Mathew Foster



Old Red Lion Theatre until 21st April



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