Writer: Mike Poulton
Director: James Dacre
Reviewer: Dawn Smallwood
Royal &Derngate Northampton Theatre and Touring Consortium Theatre Company brings Mike Poulton’s 2014 adaptation of Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities to Bradford’s Alhambra Theatre. The historical novel, published in 1859, is set both in London and Paris before, and at the height of the French Revolution. Both cities went through enormous political and social change during the 18th Century, which shaped both Britain and France forever. The play opens with quotes of contrasts by the cast including “it was the best of times, it was worst of times”.
Charles Dickens is known for being semi-autobiographical, and dialogues of his characters in his novels and events appear in asimilar vein to the author’s life himself. The adaptation focuses on a personal drama of a family; Charles Darnay (Jacob Ifan), his wife Lucie Manette (Shanaya Rafaat) and father in law, Dr. Manette (Patrick Romer), living in the chaos and horror of the French Revolution.
Numerous contrasting themes evolve from the story with the plight of the French peasants and the treatment received from the French aristocrats. This subsequently leads to the revolution where the peasants have the brutal upper hand socially and politically with the aristocrats, all in the name of equality, justice, and liberty. As well the Revolution, there is the love triangle between Darnay, Sydney Carton and Lucie Manette and Carton’s heroism in saving Darney from execution.
Dickens is a realist and A Tales of Two Cities certainly brings out the social injustices and corruption between the rich and the poor. James Dacre’s direction ensures there is no compromise to the novel’s adaptation and that the social themes are boldly and successfully drawn out.
Mike Britton’s atmospheric staging depicts the characters’ lives during the era and is supported by Paul Keogan’s lighting and Ruth Hall’s periodic costumes. There is smooth switching of scenes between London and Paris which doesn’t interrupt the flow of the story. Rachel Portman’s original musical accompaniment and Adrienne Quartly’s soundscapes add life into the performance. Jacob Ifan and Joseph Timms give excellent portrayals of Darnay and Carton respectively and it is the same with the rest of the cast members.
A Tale of Two Cities is certainly a play of contrasts. This enjoyable adaptation explores the characters’ plight and the impact of the French Revolution. The audience is encouraged to think beyond the novel and how events today can have similarly significant circumstances as to nearly three hundred years ago.
Touring Nationwide | Image: Contributed