Therese Raquin**** (Finborough Theatre)

Posted: April 4, 2014 in Theatre

L-R-Ben-Lewis-Tara-Hugo-Matt-Wilman-and-Julie-Atherton-in-THÉRÈSE-RAQUIN.-Photo-Credit-Darren-BellTreading the path laid down by Stephen Sondheim with Passion and moving further along it, Nona Shepphard (book and lyrics) and Craig Adams (music) have created a remarkable new work of musical theatre. It is an adaptation of Emile Zola’s novel set in late 19th Century Paris in which the eponymous heroine is trapped in a loveless marriage and embarks on a tempestuous affair with Laurent, her husband’s friend. The show is almost sung-through to the accompaniment only of a single piano and harmonising choruses, the lyrics translating Zola’s prose beautifully and matching the rich, melodic score to perfection. As is often said of Sondheim, the words sing and the music speaks. Laura Cordery’s adaptable set of a small shop and living quarters is an object lesson in how to make maximum use of a tiny space. In the title role, Julie Atherton is a silent prisoner for the first 45 minutes, exuding suppressed passion, but then explodes to life when her lover releases her. As Laurent, Ben Lewis is beefy, brooding and dangerous, whilst Jeremy Legat makes an irksome Camille, Therese’s weak and sickly husband. Also outstanding is Tara Hugo as Camille’s controlling mother. The show’s failing is much the same as that of Passion in that there is too little variation in tone, so that the air of prevalent gloom begins to wear too heavy over the course of two hours and this failing could well impair the show’s popular appeal. Nonetheless, it will be interesting to see if it can be developed further, maybe for a larger venue and with a full orchestra. The potential is certainly there.

Performance date: 3 April 2014

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