Presented by Independent Theatre
Reviewed 17 November 2017
Independent Theatre reverently adapts Evelyn Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited in their final production of 2017, exploring youthful passion, Catholic guilt, and the enigmatic Flyte family. Waugh’s beloved novel recounts Charles Ryder’s obsessive relationships with Sebastian and Julia Flyte across two vivid times periods – collegial Oxford in the 1920s, and Britain during the 1930s as World War II draws close.
The production is near faultless. Though working with a skeleton set design, the creative use of a scrim backdrop allows Brideshead Castle to loom over the action, and different scenes to be projected when required (from location settings to Charles’ paintings).
Rob Croser’s direction is to be commended, as the play is immaculately rehearsed and flows rapidly –allowing neither the characters nor audience to linger in those blissful summer days at Brideshead. While both screen adaptations of Brideshead Revisited downplay the romantic aspect of Charles and Sebastian’s friendship, Croser’s version is not embarrassed to show the two caress and actually kiss – bringing to life the relationship which is heavily hinted at in the novel. This is a refreshing choice and respectfully handled. Charles carries the narration forwards as he breaks the fourth wall and speaks his innermost thoughts to the audience.
The entire cast champions the play, though Will Cox as Charles must especially be praised. He is constantly on stage and never falters. Ben Francis as Sebastian and Madeleine Herd as Julia both inhabit their characters and have great on-stage chemistry with Cox. Francis’ Sebastian is constantly draping himself over Charles, visibly gaining reassurance and support through their familiarity. He interacts with Aloysius, Sebastian’s teddy bear and reminder of a lost childhood, with an artful nonchalance reminiscent of Anthony Andrews from the 1981 mini-series. Cox and Herd are passionate but never seem quite at-ease with each other, which hints at Julia’s guilt over their relationship and her eventual return to the Church.
Independent Theatre create something very special here. Their Brideshead Revisited stays faithful to the themes of the original novel, while artfully employing the dry humour of the British upper classes – delivering an enjoyable and unforgettable performance.
Reviewed by Nicola Woolford
Disclaimer: Ben Francis is an Arts reviewer for Glam Adelaide
Venue: The Goodwood Institute
Season: 17 – 25 November 2017
Duration: Three hours
Tickets: $18.00 – $35.00