Friday, 14 March 2014

A Tale of Two Cites - Royal Theatre Northampton

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way. Perhaps one of the most famous opening paragraphs of any book? New artistic director at the Royal and Derngate Northampton, James Dacre has got off to a flying start wwith this his firts performance. Mike Poulton’s adaptation of A Tale of Two Cities hurtles through Dickens’ 1859 masterpiece in little more than two hours. Even by his standards – he’s the man responsible for the RSC’s lean, mean Wolf Hall – that’s a lot of hacking. But while you may mourn the absence of the narratorial voice, you don’t feel short-changed. Mike Britton’s fast changing set swiftly shifts from London to a revolutionary Paris. I was really impressed with the court room scenes which contained an essence of the classic Dickens humour. This is a classic without doubt, yet rarely performed on stage. Dickens wanted Tale Of Two Cities to be his cautionary tale of the dangers of political unrest and upheaval and Poulton has done an excellent job of distilling the key elements of this enormous story without losing any of its impetus. In addition to the main cast, Dacre makes use of the Royal and Derngate Community Ensemble to convey a sense of unrest and mob behaviour, packing the relatively small, but tall stage with a jeering, volatile crowd. Joshua Silver, as the young aristocrat Charles Darnay, and Oliver Dimsdale, as Carton, both give charismatic, engaging performances. A really enjoyable night out.

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