Thursday, 3 November 2011

Greece in crisis, Captain Corelli time...

Colchester's Mercury Theatre has this incredible knack of running a production that has an uncanny amount of synchronicity to current affairs. And they've scored yet again with this intriguing depiction of Louis de Bernières novel 'Captain Corelli's Mandolin', a collaboration between the Mercury and the Kote Marjanishvili Theatre of Tbilisi, Georgia. The play features both live action from a trim cast of five supplemented by a series of puppets playing both mini versions of the main on-stage characters and other parts.

What was no surprise was the compelling quality of the acting and the stage production, the latter not only providing stunning visual effects but also giving Health and Safety a scare with so much exposed naked flame! The puppetry really came into its own in the 2nd act, whereas in the first, whilst admiring the impressive technical skill, I found myself occasionally wondering what it added apart from the show stealing pet goat. As mentioned, in the 2nd part the interface between real and puppet action became an essential element, able to sensitively depict the harrowing scenes that are so distressing in the book (and film) without lessening any dramatic impact.

All the action is set on the Greek Island Cephallonia (Kefalonia) which suffered Italian and then German occupation during the 2nd World War. The characters are given more time to develop their personae than in the film and, one of leading actors, Mike Maran, is, indeed, credited for this excellent adaptation. He plays the long suffering Dr Iannis who opens the play with one of the most memorable scenes, as depicted above. Captain Corelli is cast as a bit of a buffoon! Having said that, Tony Casement plays him brilliantly, both as romeo and as the commander of his squad of loyal but slightly reluctant soldiers. Roger Delves-Boughton plays both Corelli's Quartermaster and the humorous British Spy, 'Roger', would you believe? Mr Bond, I presume?! Mandras, the local Greek fisherman was played by Gus Gallagher and Dr Iannis' precious daughter, Pelagia, was wonderfully brought to life by Natalie Kakhidze.

Although the music was all pre-recorded, it was specially written and provided some contrasting moments of joy and pathos. As a result I was relieved I could blame the smoke units for making my eyes water! The set design was sparse, mainly working with a set of moving risers and drapes. However, the lighting, sound effects, pyrotechnics and prop movements were seamlessly slick, providing amazing impact with iconic images via models and projections.

Another aspect that came over well, which the film failed to convey, was the subtle, yet effective, portrayal of the differences betwixt the Greek Orthodox and Roman Catholic churches. In fact, religious imagery, practice and concepts were very evident throughout as part of life and death.

So, if you have read the book, you will definitely not be disappointed. If you've only seen the film, watching this will make you yearn to read the book and glean even more! Highly recommended...

Captain Corelli's Mandolin is on until 12th November - book tickets here



nevell said...

I read the book years ago, and remember it to be compelling, funny, sad,and a bit surreal (but maybe that's just the Greek influence.) The theatre version certainly sounds interesting. Must read it again!

Peter Banks said...

Off to the library then?! Me too... PB