"I am yours. Do what you want with me”
Reflecting Zola’s intent, Jonathan Munby’s direction is highly theatrical and brings a powerful lyricism to the stage, bringing in Ann Yee to provide a fluid movement style that is near-balletic and which captures the yearning spirit perfectly – in a world where so much is unsaid, body language becomes ever more eloquent. And Helen Edmundson’s version emphasises Thérèse’s elemental connection to the water and the fevered eroticism that takes her over, unutterably disrupting her world as sex, murder and self-destruction come a-knocking to liven up her dull life forcibly married to her cousin in the Parisian backstreets.
As a study in naturalism, Pippa Nixon is outstanding as Thérèse. A woman without a voice, initially at least, she’s buffeted from pillar to post by the people in her life but also by the movement of the company, roughly dressing her for her next scene, ensuring she’s obediently where she needs to be. And with her aching stares out through the stage, she speaks volumes. But even when she’s been released from emotional torpor by the rugged masculinity of Kieran Bew’s Laurent, it is clear that the damage has been done, there’s an emotional inarticulacy that tragically can never be fixed.
As the men in her life, Bew is a smouldering delight, driven by a passionate ardour which enables him to seduce Mme Raquin’s entire circle and Hugh Skinner’s comic Camille is an inspired choice, a sexless mummy’s boy with a hugely overinflated sense of self-worth. Desmond Barritt’s lascivious Michaud is also well-played, his stealing of a cheeky kiss from Thérèse a brilliant moment and it is always a pleasure to see Alison Steadman, an overprotective but kindly maternal figure, hollowed out by the devastating effects of a stroke and then fuelled by rage as the penny drops – she’s totally convincing throughout.
With just a short run here and a mini-tour to follow, it is well worth the effort trying to get to see this if you can.
Running time: 2 hours 40 minutes (with interval)
Booking until 16th August, then touring to Malvern and Cambridge
Labels: Alison Steadman, Charlotte Mills, Christopher Bianchi, Desmond Barrit, Helen Edmundson, Hugh Skinner, Jennifer Jackson, Kieran Bew, Lynsey Beauchamp, Michael Mears, Pippa Nixon, Simon Carroll-Jones