There are a few reasons why Nineteenth Century classic romantic, historical novels don’t necessarily make good stage plays: more narrative than dialogue; numerous locations; multi-plot threads; and many and varied characters.
Declan Donnellan’s stage adaptation of William Makepeace Thackeray’s Vanity Fair has managed to solve some of the above problems, by making the whole production very theatrical – a fairly bare stage, costumes and props kept to a minimum, and seven actors narrating and portraying the majority of the novel’s characters (as well as some of the stage furnishings).
Does this style of adaptation succeed? To an extent.
Does this Adelaide Rep production succeed? Again, to an extent.
There are some very clever touches (actors portraying river banks and portraits; chairs being made into carriages), but not enough; and in the end the show still tends to come across as a ‘talking book’.
Director Brian Knott paces the show fairly well, but most of the characters tend to come across two rather than three dimensional, and very stiff-upper lipped and unemotional (although this was the British attitude in the 1800s).
What does make this version delightful to watch is the wonderful ensemble cast (Alex King, Keith Manson, Mason Willis, Belinda Knott, Abi Devries, James Whitrow and Lindy LeCornu). King and Whitrow make delightful French servants, with Whitrow giving beautiful and much needed emotion and poignancy to Act Two. Manson and Willis have their wonderfully portrayed moments; Devries and Knott do well, but both could differentiate their emotional changes more; and the lovely LeCornu proves once again why she is one of Adelaide’s most sought after actors – all her characterisations are humorous and gloriously realised.
The Adelaide Rep’s Vanity Fair is a fair production, but may appeal more to fans of the novel than the normal theatre goer.
Reviewed by Brian Godfrey
Venue: The Arts Theatre 53 Angas Street Adelaide
Season: 5-14 September 2013
Duration: 2 hours 30 mins including interval
Tickets: $12.00 – $22.00
Bookings: 8212 5777 or www.trybooking.com
Disclosure: Brian Godfrey is a former Board member of the Adelaide Repertory Theatre Company