Writer: E.M. Forster
Adaptor: Simon Reade
Director: Adrian Noble
Reviewer: Bill Avenell
It must be a bit of a challenge to turn a full-length novel into a two-hour play, but Simon Reade does a very reasonable job in this adaptation for the stage of E.M. Forster’s famous work.
Social and political upheaval in Edwardian England is remarkably topical in the light of our own changing times. This story, set for the first act in Florence at a Pensione, a watering hole for tourists, and for the second in rural Surrey, touches on several issues that are distinctly relevant at the
A young Englishwoman, on the ‘Grand Tour’ with her aunt as chaperone and wanting to experience the real Italy while constrained by both society’s and her aunt’s opinions, has a brush with back street Florence and a fleeting liaison with a young Englishman, not quite of the right background. Later, back in England, the coming together of social rules, an intended fiancé and the reappearance of her young suitor provide the backdrop for the play’s denouement.
It starts slowly, perhaps inevitably because of Reade’s task of having to condense an awful lot of scene setting into a relative few lines of dialogue. And this is a weakness. It is hard not to feel rushed, too much of said dialogue is indistinct and thus the plot is difficult to follow and some of Forster’s witty conversation lost. But back in the Home Counties, with the stage set, the piece speeds up and some very amusing scenes and lines hurry us on more comfortably towards the conclusion. For both positives and negatives, Adrian Noble must get the blame and the plaudits for his direction. Particularly noteworthy is his ability to portray the bustle and whirl of Florence in a few brief scenes and he is abetted in this task by Paul Wills’ set of changing backdrops, which give the
For both positives and negatives, Adrian Noble must get the blame and the plaudits for his direction. Particularly noteworthy is his ability to portray the bustle and whirl of Florence in a few brief scenes and he is abetted in this task by Paul Wills’ set of changing backdrops, which give the impressionistic ‘views’ of the title, albeit a little too movable at times. Mia Soteriou’s score is another plus, which helps to convey the changes of mood, and the device of making Lucy Honeychurch, the central character who is very well played by Lauren Coe, keep returning to the piano to express her feelings is inspired.
As well as Coe, who holds the stage with increasing power, Felicity Kendall gives a clever portrayal of Charlotte Bartlett, whose significance in the plot only becomes truly apparent towards the end; Simon Jones is a comforting Mr Beebe and Jeff Rawle a genial Mr Emerson who delivers the crucial speech with aplomb.
The subject matter and the requirement to do justice to Forster’s development of character and plot is challenging, but the challenge is met full on in this production which ends with a lot more pros than cons.
Runs until 3 December 2016 | Image: Nobby Clark