Theatre Royal Brighton until 11th June 2016
Brideshead Revisited | Review
To me the title ‘Brideshead Revisited’ means two things, a musty book in our bookcase that hasn’t been read in years and a TV series aired in the early 1980s. Both of these are distant memories so I was delighted that a world premiere production of Evelyn Waugh’s classic novel, adapted for the stage by Bryony Lavery is currently touring the UK.
The production is jointly presented by English Touring Theatre and York Theatre Royal and directed by Damian Cruden (who also directed York Theatre Royal’s production of The Railway Children). This adaptation goes back to the heart of Waugh’s original novel. It is a study of an aristocratic family through the eyes of Charles Ryder who initially befriends one of the sons Sebastian Flyte whilst at Oxford. Over the years Charles’ life becomes intertwined with the whole family challenging his views on class, family loyalty and religion.
The production publicity depicts a picture of the beautiful Castle Howard where the original TV
series was glamorously set however creating a stately backdrop with the magnificence required would have been impossible, particular there are scenes set in Venice, Oxford and Tangiers as well. To allow for this designer Sara Perks has stripped the production right back to a blank stage with no scenery and minimal props, using atmospheric coloured lighting designed by Richard G Jones depicts the changes of setting leaving the audience to use their imagination.
Brian Ferguson portrays Charles whose memories about the family are the backbone of the play. The first act focuses on his close friendship with Sebastian (Christopher Simpson), he watches as Sebastian’s anxieties and paranoia slowly destroy him as he finds solace in drink. In the second act Sebastian barely makes an appearance as Charles becomes more involved with the rest of the family in particular Sebastian’s sister Julia (Rosie Hilal).
Trying to capture this monumental book in a mere two hours is bound to be a challenge and unfortunately the pacing of the play is disjointed, many of the early scenes are fast paced and don’t allow enough character development. Yet in the second act the production slows right down and conversations are detailed and much more enjoyable.
If you can put aside your grand preconceptions, you won’t be disappointed with this slick adaptation of Brideshead Revisited.
Brideshead Revisited continues to play at the Theatre Royal in Brighton until Saturday 11th June.
Buy Tickets here
Further tour dates here.
Reviewer : Sammi O’Neill
Photo Credit : Mark Douet