Review – Therese Raquin

Tuesday 12 December 2006

WEW love a bit of darkness. But the Royal National Theatre’s production of Emile Zola’s classic psychological melodrama Therese Raquin (intellectual footnote: raquin is almost yer actual French for shark) is set in such crepuscular gloom they were glad not to be sitting nearer the back.

Indeed it’s brilliantly under-lit by Neil Austin (if that’s not a contradiction in terms) and intensely atmospheric.

Nicholas (Mrs, Klein, Vincent in Brixton, His Dark Materials) Wright’s adaptation of the famous French novel is about lust, betrayal, murder, guilt, and paranoia – and roughly in that order – so don’t expect a bundle of laughs.

If you haven’t read the book or seen the brilliant TV adaptation in the 80s the less you know about the plot the better. Phil loved the novel when he read it many years ago; when it was still considered rather modern, indeed.

Despite it being a ripping tale, Andrew nodded off over his Minstrels several times in the first act due to the soporific darkness and the unnecessarily slow pace. At two hours and forty minutes, it’s longer than the material merits and we recommend the National get Caryl Churchill in to do a rewrite. 40 minutes with no interval should put a bit of oomph into it.

Charlotte Emmerson in the title role seems to specialise in making a cuckold of dreary husbands (having played opposite Val Kilmer in The Postman Always Rings Twice) and in the acting stakes, no-one can hold a candle to her when she’s doing “miserable” which she does a lot here. Her singularity of tone soon became rather wearing.

Ben Daniels has a brooding intensity as her lover Laurent and the wonderful Judy Parfitt as Madame Raquin comes into her own in the second act with a fine line in frozen stares.

There’s an awful lot of grey walls, chiaroscuro and moody (live) music, and more than a touch of expressionist lighting. The menacing grinding noises which underplay many of the scenes are quite effective, although they did sound rather like the rumble of distant tube trains, causing Andrew to wake on one occasion thinking he was in the Criterion Theatre

The big angst/guilt scene between Therese and Laurent is performed as a series of brief tableaux more like a dance piece by DV8. This is all done behind a gauze which Phil couldn’t help noticing has a small hole dead centre. Those pesky National Theatre moths. WEW are offering their services to pop in with a sewing kit.

Something to do in the first act, anyway.

3 Responses to “Review – Therese Raquin”

  1. Labrosse Says:

    Raquin isn’r the French for Shark.
    Requin is.
    Bonne journée.


  2. Mea culpa! That’s what happens when you listen to your mates. Haven’t I learned anything from watching QI? Rule number 1: believe nothing your mates tell you. Thanks Labrosse.

    PS: Is it a pun then? Clutching at straws now.


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