Writer: Linda Marshall-Griffiths
Director: Mark Rosenblatt
Reviewer: Dawn Smallwood
This re-imagined production is based on the 1833 Charlotte Brontë novel. Villette is about Lucy Snowe, the story’s central character, who travels to Villette, a fictional village in Belgium, after experiencing the tragedy of her family. Linda Marshall-Griffiths interprets the story with Lucy being a clone who survives a deadly outbreak. Escaping the past, she travels alone to an archaeological dig, where she embarks on a search for Lady of Villette’s bones. Bones, which could hold crucial evidence as to the outbreak.
This production is not heavily focused towards the narrative. Instead, there is more emphasis on the characters themselves, in particular,Lucy Snowe. The re-imagined Lucy (Laura Elsworthy) is cloned to work and when her time is up, she is likely to be disposed of. There is a ‘Big Brother’ presence felt with Beck (Catherine Cusack) and Gin (Amelia Donkor) overseeing her and her activities.
During her work, she poetically relives the journeys of her past with references to her cloned identical sisters, Esme and Ash, whose lives were lost in the outbreak. The themes explored are her psychological wellbeing, loneliness and isolation, disposition, cultural differences of the past and the future, and the eventual desire to be loved which involve encounters with Dr. John Bretton (Nana Amoo-Gottfied) and Professor Paul (Philip Cairns). One suggests this is a similar life to Charlotte Brontë herself.
This production is digitally re-imagined with hi-tech staging, with action projected visually on the screen above the stage, courtesy of Andrzej Goulding. Set in the future, Jess Curtis’s staging supports the story with a futuristic vision where history is met with modern technology. Chris Davey’s evocative lighting and John Harris’ loud soundscapes support the characters that go about their business.
Laura Elsworthy gives an excellent and commanding performance as Lucy Snowe. She finds the courage to breaks free from her invisible clone-like state in order to become visibly soulful and loving – experiencing many ‘firsts’. The rest of the cast are very good portraying the key characters from Villette in this production.
Villette is not as well known as Jane Eyre and its character focused story suits Marshall-Griffith’s modern eye-catching adaptation under the superb direction of Mark Rosenblatt. Certainly,this is a production to see with an open mind and offers a fantastic opportunity to be acquainted further with Villette via the actual novel.
Runs until 15 October 2016 | Image: Anthony Robling