Thursday, 5 April 2007

Don’t Look Now

Based on the Daphne du Maurier short story of 1971 Don’t Look Now is perhaps more famous in its film incarnation directed by Nicholas Roeg. However, this new adaptation by Nell Leyshon and directed by Lucy Bailey brings the story to the stage and places the action in what appears to be the late 1950s.

A middle class couple – John and Laura - are on holiday in Venice. The previous year their daughter had died of meningitis and they are still in the process of recovering from the trauma.

There is humour in the piece – mainly at the expense of the buttoned up husband and his attempts to speak Italian – but also when John and Laura invent stories about people they see. This all helps in the establishment of the tone of the relationship between the two of them and how they are travelling from grief towards the normality they had before their child’s death.

They keep encountering a pair of sisters, one of whom is blind and apparently has second sight. She claims to be able see the couple’s dead daughter and warns the husband that he must leave Venice as he is in danger.

The staging of all this is plain and austere. A large part of the action takes place at tables in restaurants and to compensate for the lack of movement the furniture glides from one side of the performing area to the other very slowly. This is effective at first as it gives a sense of the disorientation the couple and particularly the husband feel. It can also be regarded as a visual metaphor for how the sisters are brought into John and Laura’s lives and then drift off again. However, it does get rather irritating after a while. At times it feels as though the pace of the dialogue and action slows down to mirror that of the slow-moving scenery.

There is also another problem: the sex scene in the story is just a couple of lines but was famously realised in Roeg’s film. As a consequence it’s depiction in this staging on a bed slowly traversing the stage is at a huge disadvantage. It has neither the subtle discretion of du Maurier’s original text nor the erotic charge of the film version.

It all ends badly. Laura returns to England to be with their son who is at boarding school and who has been hospitalised because of appendicitis. Husband John is left alone in Venice to follow on later. But, he imagines that he see his wife still in the city with the two sisters, and starts to pursue them. Rather than finding his wife he becomes the latest victim of a serial killer targeting tourists.

Altogether this was a competent but dull production that lacked atmosphere and pace.

Lyric Hammersmith

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