The Lady With a Dog
Reviewed – 20th March 2018
“definite shades of Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr from the fifties romance ‘An Affair to Remember’”
It has often been said that good books make bad plays and vice versa. A generalisation I know, yet examples are rare of adaptations that stand as pieces of work in their own right – and interestingly these usually occur when the playwright takes liberties with the source material. Writer and director Mark Giesser’s adaptation of “The Lady with a Dog” is one of those rare examples. He has modernised Chekhov’s endearing classic short story about infidelity, obsession and secrecy, planting it into 1920s England, without losing any of the fine moral conundrums inherent in the original.
Damian Granville (Richard Lynson) is a banker on holiday, without his wife, on the Scottish coast who becomes intrigued with a young woman (Beth Burrows) and her small Pomeranian dog. He uses the dog to strike up a conversation, learns that she is called Anne Dennis, and that she is married but also on holiday without her husband. Over the days, Damian and Anne see a lot of each other and grow close. Lynson gives a fine performance as the older man intrigued by the exuberant naïveté of another potential ‘conquest’. In Chekhov’s original the character initially comes off as quite unlikeable: a serial philanderer who regards women as the ‘lower race’, but thankfully Lynson dispels any sense of misogyny with his fine-tuned portrayal, while Burrows delightfully betrays a sharpness beneath Anne’s innocence as she teases and flirts with him. There are definite shades of Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr from the fifties romance ‘An Affair to Remember’ and the two actors here share the same sizzling chemistry.
Played out on Oscar Selfridge’s striking art deco set, the intensity of the affair is given added poignancy with the introduction of the respective spouses. A brilliantly clever device; they appear as figments of the imagination, meandering between conscience and flashback, before solidifying into real protagonists. Laura Glover, as Elaine Granville, is a master of the ‘put-down’ and she fills the space with a performance that manages to strike a perfect balance between scorn and resigned affection for her husband. Duncan MacInnes is magnificent, too, as the cuckolded husband to Anne. Far from being Chekov’s wet-blanket, MacInnes shows an inner strength that somehow makes Anne’s infidelity less demeaning.
There are great moments of comedy too, particularly during a delightful scene in a cinema where Damian mischievously places himself next to Anne and her husband, and another later scene where the two couples confront each other. These are extraneous to Chekhov’s story, and it is moments such as these that give real flesh to the bare bones of the story. I did wonder how such a slim tale could be padded out into a two-hour drama, but this production succeeds. Full of bittersweet charm it captures the spirit of the age while exploring the ageless mystery of love and commitment.
Reviewed by Jonathan Evans
Photography by Andreas Grieger
The Lady With a Dog
Tabard Theatre until 7th April