By Daphne Du Maurier, adapted by Nell Leyshon
Directed by Ian Dickens
Company: Ian Dickens Productions
Venue: Connaught Theatre
Date: Wednesday 22nd October 2008
This was slightly disappointing. The play was based on both the original novel and the film with Donald Sutherland and Julie Christie, which I haven’t seen but Steve has. The story is set in and around Venice.
The set design was a bit boring, even allowing for the fact that this is a touring production. There were lots of walls, arches and balconies, all in washed-out colours. There were a lot of furnishings to be taken on and off between scenes, but as this was done fairly briskly I didn’t find it a problem. In general though, I felt there was very little sense of atmosphere. I suspect the lighting was partly at fault, as it seemed very flat most of the time.
The play started with a young couple sitting at an outdoor table on one of the Venetian islands. Their young daughter, Christina, died a short time ago, and their trip to Venice is an attempt to get over their grief. Their son is back in England, at school. They spot a couple of older women watching them, and make up backgrounds for them – jewel thieves, murderers, that sort of thing. One of the women talks to the wife during a trip to the loo, and this triggers an emotional change in her which disturbs the husband.
The older woman who has spoken to the wife has told her that the other older woman, her sister, is blind, but has developed an ability to see visions. She saw their daughter at their table, and this makes the wife very happy. From being unwilling to let her husband touch her, she changes so much she has sex with him that afternoon. He, on the other hand, thinks the sisters are just conning them, and becomes absurdly insistent that his wife has been taken in by a load of old rubbish.
It’s absurd because his emotions seem out of place in the circumstances. He also takes to seeing what may be their daughter, dressed in the red cloak she used to wear. The sense of foreboding increases when they get a call from England, to tell them their son is in hospital, and needs an urgent operation to remove his appendix. The wife flies back at once, but despite a warning from the two sisters that they should both leave Venice immediately, the husband stays on, planning to pick up their car and drive back.
The next day, he sees his wife with the two sisters, and instigates a police hunt for her, believing that the sisters have lured her back somehow. Then he manages to talk with her by phone, and is greatly relieved to find she’s in England, and their son is well after his operation. The police aren’t too happy when he tells them they were on a wild goose chase, though. They’re trying to track down a murderer who’s killing tourists, and didn’t need to be wasting their valuable time on something else.
The husband goes out for a final stroll, and sees the small figure in the red cloak again. He follows it, and it turns out the tourist killer is a midget, dressed in a red cloak, and so the husband ends up dead. The final scene shows us the wife returning to Venice to collect her husband’s body and being supported by the two sisters, who tell her that her husband must have had a vision of this moment when he thought he saw his wife earlier.
It’s a simple enough story, and reasonably well told, but again the lack of atmosphere made it less gripping. The performances were fine, apart from the chief of police, who seemed determined to avoid speaking clearly throughout the whole evening. This, coupled with an Italian accent (I assume; I didn’t hear him well enough), meant that I lost most of his dialogue, and so the information about the tourist killer was lost on me until close to the end. Other than that, this was a watchable production, but not an inspired one.
© 2008 Sheila Evans at ilovetheatre.me