Tuesday, 22 November 2016

"A Tale Of Cities" by Charles Dickens.
Nottingham Theatre Royal.
It was the best of plays, or was it the worst of plays, that is the question. Well let me tell you, it was one of the best classic plays I've seen, and that word "classic" could be well worn by the end of this review.
"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 spring of hope, it was the winter of despair; we had everything before us, we had nothing before us"
Straight away these opening lines transported me back to my schooldays where I first read Charles Dickens'.classic story. The story of Charles Darney (Jacob Ifan) and his French to-ing and fro-ing that landed him in the kangaroo Parisian court room which very nearly ended his life at the feet of Madame Guillotine, had it not been for Sydney Carton (Joseph Timms). Carlton makes Darney swap clothes and then drugs him to get him out of the cell, saying that the visitor was drunk. Carlton then takes Darney's place and is executed..
Darney, who is married to Dr Manette's daughter, Lucie (Shanaya Rafaat), who is expecting his child is taken to Lucie as her father (Patrick Romer), and herself are fleeing Paris for their lives after Carlton overhears Madame Defarge (Noa Bodner), swearing to kill Dr Manette and Lucie as well as her unborn child.
That's the long and the short of it but the several sub plots that run through the play make for above average interest.
A very entertaining opening court room scene brings several laughs, and there are other parts of the play that raise the humour stakes.
A wonderful cast who show what classic actors can do with a classic tale such as this. No need for mics and you heard every single word, even above the music, which by the way was gorgeous, thanks to an original score by Rachel Portman. Beautifully projected without the merest sign of strain these actors were some of the best period drama actors I've experienced.
The sets were big and overbearing, which gave just the right feel for the court rooms, easily sliding in and out of position, almost like scenes from a film. Designed by Mike Britton, they alternated from London to Paris with that wonderful 18th Century feel and look.
The costumes in period dramas are what I look at with interest and these were just so full of class, giving a lovely and apt period feel. Designed by Ruth Hall.
The sound design (Adrienne Quartly) was subtle when needed to be and booming when required; the thunderclaps literally made me jump!
The lighting design (Paul Keogan) went through nearly every level from brilliant light to almost pitch, creating wonderful atmosphere sections throughout.
The cast, which was a fairly big one, were amazing, I could watch them all over again I was entranced in the story and their re-telling of it. James Dacre, the director has done a great job here fitting the story into two and a half hours. Was it really that long? Didn't seem to be, but it was. A sign of an enthralling piece of theatre.
There was a local connection here as well with the peasant boy being played by local youngster Rio Jaegar.
If you love classic theatre and plays done really well, this is one play that you do not want to miss. i don't think I ever appreciated Dickens' work when I was at school but decades on I'm loving his work,and where better to re-discover your love for classics such as this, than at the Nottingham Theatre Royal.
"A Tale Of Two Cities", adapted by Mike Poulton and performed by the Touring Consortium Theatre Company and Royal & Derngate Northampton co production is at the Nottingham Theatre Royal until Saturday 26 November 2016. It's one not to be missed.

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