York Theatre Royal – 25 to 29 October 2016. Reviewed by Michelle Richardson
English Touring Theatre and Sheffield Theatre, adapted and directed by Phillip Breen, brings to the stage the controversial D.H. Lawrence novel, Lady Chatterley’s Lover. Now showing at York Theatre Royal until Saturday 29th October, touring until end of November.
Lady Constance Chatterley, Hedydd Dylan, is trapped in her marriage, neglected both emotionally and physically by her impotent husband, Clifford, Eugene O’Hare, who was paralysed in The Great War and finds solace in the arms of the handsome gamekeeper Mellors, Jonah Russell.
The production starts with the stage being sparsely set out with dust sheets covering several pieces of furniture dotted around. It looked grim, reflecting on the aftermath of the tragic and traumatic Great War. The lighting was very dim, adding to the oppression. I did really struggle to actually see parts of the performance with such dim lighting and it did greatly affect my appreciation of the show.
Brief scenes, with the piano playing in the background, show snapshots of their life, changing when the lights go out, but only for a couple of seconds before another scene appears. In some of these short scenes sometimes I could not wholly grasp what was happening before it had finished, and we were onto another one. We see Constance in all her unhappiness before staring an affair, first with Michaelis and then Mellors, who she ultimately falls in love with.
There is nudity, which when first appeared on the stage caused a little tittle in the audience, and strong language, but a warning is given in the flyers. Connie and Mellors frolic around in the forest, running around naked in the rain, with strategic bowls placed around the stage for the water. The way the rain was portrayed was really effective and was a surprise to see on stage.
I found that the chemistry between Dylan and Russell was slightly lacking and was not convinced by their relationship, though there were some touching emotional scenes.
The first act did drag on a bit, the second act in comparison was very short and just seemed to abruptly finish, and that was it.
The theatre appeared pretty full and I know that Phillip Breen has a following here after the successful run of The Mystery Plays this summer, but I left the theatre not sure exactly how I felt about the piece, and I still don’t.