Brideshead Reviewed in Richmond-on-Thames

The English Touring Theatre’s production of Brideshead Revisited opened its final run in Richmond-on-Thames earlier this week. Richmond is a suburb of London, and the major London papers reviewed the production after its April opening in York. At least two online newsblogs, however, have reviewed the Richmond performance: one theatrical and the other Roman Catholic. Scott Matthewman writing in the theatrical blog ( concluded:

Lavery’s script does condense Waugh’s novel nicely, and Damian Cruden’s direction has a couple of nice touches – introducing the Marchmain family as if they are presented in a portrait gallery, for instance, or the portrayal of a stormy sea passage by propelling the cast around the stage on a love seat on wheels. But elsewhere there are elements of hesitancy and a lack of sure-footedness that fatally draw the audience out of the imagined world. What helps draw us back in are a series of fine supporting performances, from Nick Blakeley’s Anthony Blanche to Kiran Sonia Star’s precocious Cordelia. For all its faults, this adaptation of Brideshead Revisited is an engaging evening. It is refreshing to see a classic novel staged in a contemporary way, even if such staging is not wholly successful.

In the Independent Catholic News, Philip Crispin found the play to be a:

…beautiful, flowing adaptation of Waugh’s great part-autobiographical novel by Bryony Lavery,..Hilarious scenes such as the Oxonians’ foray into London clubland and Sebastian’s subsequent drunk-driving disgrace, and contextual markers such as Charles’s reactionary politics during the 1926 General Strike are sadly missing – there is only so much one can fit in in the roughly two hours traffic of this sensitively directed production by Damian Cruden. Nevertheless, a multi-roling cast succeed in evoking the charm and elegance of Waugh’s Brideshead world – the period ambience of which is also consummately evoked by the elegant, strongly lit and richly coloured designs of Sara Perks (designer) and Richard G Jones (lighting design).

A local paper in Richmond (the Surrey Comet) earlier published an interview with actress Caroline Harker who plays both Lady Marchmain and Nanny Hawkins. She explained that:

“It’s about war, religion and alcoholism, which is a present subject, as it’s happening now…There are so many interesting characters that if you get bored of one character, you can watch the actor change into a different character and re-create themselves.” She added: “It is stylistically interesting, funny, fast moving, thought-provoking and character rich. You’ll come away thinking.”

The play closes after its final night at the Richmond Theatre on Saturday, 2 July.

UPDATE (1 July 2016): Blogger May B posting in on 30 June was more downbeat:

Downton Abbey it isn’t. I was expecting sumptuous sets conveying the opulent wealth of the landed gentry. Instead, there was a minimalist approach to set design with a few artfully moving screens. The background music reflected the emotions of each scene.

Overall, I found the production rather slow – particularly in the first half – although it picked up in the second. I particularly enjoyed how the storm at sea was produced – and the connection here with the impact on Charles’ and Julia’s relationship was subtle but clever. However, the anachronistic religious theme (Roman Catholic versus Protestant versus agnosticism) and sad storyline made it rather sombre viewing.

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