The Massive Tragedy of Madame Bovary – Jermyn Street Theatre, London

Reviewer: Mike Wells

Writer: John Nicholson

Director: Marieke Audsley

This year, Jermyn Street’s pre-Christmas show is an adaptation of Gustave Flaubert’s Madame Bovary, a seminal masterpiece, a hugely influential literary work, but one that, outside literary circles, isn’t widely known. Subject to prosecution for obscenity when first published in the 1850’s, it was an instant bestseller, and now considered to be Flaubert’s masterpiece. While the novel drew much of its acclaim from its realism, this stage adaptation is anything but. This show is two hours of fabulous farce, and it’s superbly done.

It’s a slickly directed ensemble piece. As Madame Bovary, Jennifer Kirby is excellent. The character’s expectations of life have been shaped by the romantic novels she’s read. She constantly strives for those ideals but, ultimately, they prove elusive. She’s a playful and passionate character and Kirby’s performance is equally so.

As her hapless but thoroughly decent husband (among other characters), Sam Alexander is similarly brilliant. Love-blind to her digressions, the dramatic irony that ensues is as heart-breaking as it is hilarious, and his enduring innocence is a vital lynchpin for the piece. In addition, Alistair Cope and Dennis Herdman play possibly a dozen other characters between them, each with their own intricacies and each as consummate as the last. They are a constant source of frivolity and the work they put in doesn’t go unnoticed.

John Nicholson’s script is quick-witted and skilfully crafted, perfect panto material. The comedy is superbly timed and carefully choreographed, a testament to Marieke Audsley’s direction. The script demands it and the cast deliver it in droves. The set and lighting is similarly playful, offering seamless interactions with the action, complementing it consummately. There are however, a couple of uncomfortable clichés that could be cut without any adverse effect on the piece.

.While there may not be a Christmas theme, at its heart this piece is a panto, and a perfect show to bring in the festive season. Yet another excellent show at a venue which rarely puts a foot wrong.

The show runs until 17 December 2022

The Reviews Hub Score

Fabulous farce

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The Reviews Hub London is under the acting editorship of Richard Maguire. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

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