Brideshead Reviewed in Brighton (More)

Drama critic David Guest has reviewed the Brighton performance of Brideshead Revisited in the Chichester Observer. He found the production to be “undeniably brave but extremely bitty,” and that it might “make the audience feel that they are just mugging up on the novel the night before an exam using study notes.” He goes on to note that

…there are even times when you pinch yourself to check that the cast is not paying tribute to the late Victoria Wood with an impromptu episode of Acorn Antiques. Any page to stage adaptation is going to have to be fierce in its editing and there is nothing wrong per se with Bryony Lavery’s paring of the novel’s complexities. Having the protagonist Charles Ryder directly recount his story and experiences between two world wars to the audience works well as he wistfully narrates his journey alongside the rich, the eccentric, the selfish and the religious.

The downside is that few, if any, characters are really explored in any depth and scenes flash by so fast it can be difficult to keep up. The most effective moment is the climactic deathbed scene of the stately Lord Marchmain (who is seen little during the course of the play) and his return to a religious faith from which he had previously sought to escape, though the significant reactions to it by those involved are all too fleetingly signposted up to that point.

After discussing the strengths and weaknesses of the cast, the direction and the set design, Guest concludes:

The result is a piece that is occasionally innovative and sometimes irritating. Generally, however, on the evidence here, it may well be that on stage at least Brideshead should simply never have been revisited.

Meanwhile, Gay Times has published an extended interview by William J. Connolly of the two principal actors, Brian Ferguson (Charles Ryder) and Christopher Simpson (Sebastian Flyte). This is datelined 8 June during the play’s Brighton run. The interview concludes:

And finally — why do you think a story like this is important to tell in 2016?

Brian: It’s a story of a world in flux where people are searching for the constancy, support and love they so desperately need in order to survive such tumultuous change. Because it’s all too much to deal with alone. I reckon we’ve all probably felt like that at some point in our lives.

Christopher: Our piece takes place in a deceptively nostalgic era which is nonetheless fraught with longing, desire, and a search for meaning. In a way, for all the misdirected antics, affairs and adventure, Charles Ryder’s journey is one towards a life valued not in terms of earthly majesty but something ineffable and inexplicable beyond. Even diehard materialists seek fulfilment.


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