Captain Corelli’s Mandolin Review

Harold Pinter Theatre – until 31 August 2019

Reviewed by Elizabeth J Smith


I read the book in 1994, many years ago and remember the first third of the book being a little hard going as many characters were introduced with complex stories and wondering how they would all come together. I nearly gave up but was assured by a friend to persevere and I was so
glad I did. It became one of my all time favourite reads. I was extremely excited years later when the film was released and although I enjoyed it, it lacked the intimacy of the book which I thought was inevitable when condensing a long story. However, Rona Munro’s adaptation has proved me wrong. She encapsulates the tranquil life of the Greek island, Cephalonia, as the locals go about their business with the war raging on in the rest of Europe but had yet to touch them.

The islander’s doctor, Dr Iannis, played by Joseph Long and his daughter Pelagia, Madison Clare, live a simple life dealing with minor medical emergencies and tending their animals. Pelagia dreams of becoming a doctor like her Father while being pursued by suitors who don’t quite come up to her ambitions until Madras, Ashley Gayle, wins her heart. We meet Francesco, Fred Fergus and Carlo, Ryan Donaldson, Italian soldiers far from home and wondering what this war is all about. The friendship develops through the scenes and we learn of the terrible turmoil being at war can do to a man’s sanity. Friendship is everything and when that turns to love so be it. We see the battles that the Greeks and the Italians endured, the horrors of war where both sides seem to win and lose. With the full force of the German army arriving to settle the argument. When finally the villagers are now in the thick of conflict having to share their homes with the enemy, but are they all bad? Captain Corelli’s, Alex Mugnaioni, arrival divides loyalties and wins hearts, as he is more interested in the power of music than winning the war.

And now to the goat, Luisa Guerreiro. This is probably one of the best character interpretation I have seen on any stage. When you walk like a goat, sound like a goat and have the mannerisms of a goat, you are a goat. Well Done. The same can be said for Elizabeth Mary Williams, who plays the Greek cat Psipsina. Twisting and curling her body in very cat like ways.

Congratulations to Mayou Trikerioti for set design and costumes. With a “tin foil” back drop that reflects the beauty of the island and the ugliness of war perfectly.

Rona Munro bought humour where often none would be found and Melley Still bought the characters from the book to life and did not disappoint. Not forgetting the beautiful music composed by Harry Blake, that instantly takes you to a Greek island or Italian opera house.

It is a great story of love, family, friendship, loyalty and loss. Of happy times and sad. Of broken promises and broken dreams.

I left the theatre feeling exactly as I did when I finished reading the book, I wanted more.

If you too, loved the book you will not be disappointed by this play and if you haven’t read the book you will leave loving the character’s, with whom you have travelled through time with each and every one of them.