Brideshead Reviewed (Southampton)

The English Touring Theatre’s production of Brideshead Revisited opened Tuesday at the Nuffield Theatre in Southampton and is reviewed in today’s Daily Echo by Brian McCusker. Either the performances are getting better through experience or the critics less demanding as the tour progresses. The Echo’s review is wholly favorable. The adaptation “works brilliantly… managing to sweep the audience across the world and through the decades in two hours of compelling dramatic storytelling.”  The review continues

The stage set is wonderfully creative, music and lighting subtly evocative, and direction by Damian Cruden is flawless. Locations are beautifully established…The stormy Atlantic crossing is masterfully and realistically conveyed. As the sexually curious and artistic Charles Ryder, Brian Ferguson is utterly convincing. Playing the damaged and doomed alcoholic Sebastian, Christopher Simpson elicits sympathy, despair, and love from other characters and the audience…

The final scene, which several previous critics thought tedious, is described as  “ingeniously handled” and “movingly stunning.” The play continues at the Nuffield until Saturday and then moves to Cambridge where it opens next Tuesday, 17 May  at the Cambridge Arts Theatre for a 5-day run.

NOTE (14 May 2016): Another review of the Southampton performance appears on the theatrical news website London Theatre 1. This is by Paddy Briggs and is mixed but more favorable than not:

Most, if perhaps not quite all, of Waugh’s characters and key plot elements are present in this play. They are, however, represented by brief extracts rather than by the full scene from the book (or, indeed, the TV Series)… For aficionados of the novel this is not a problem – we mentally fill in the missing bits. But I did wonder whether anyone who is not familiar with the story from either the book of the TV Series (or both) would “get it”.

The pace of the production, the minimalist staging, the limited but clever props all contribute to making this an engaging couple of hours which authentically tells Waugh’s story…The performances are very good and the actors get into their roles (for some multiple roles) convincingly. A special mention for Christopher Simpson’s fine Sebastian and Kiran Sonia Sawar’s nicely pitched Cordelia. The casting fell down on Aloysius the Bear though – he was a bit too large for the part! Director Damian Cruden has achieved a really authentic version of Brideshead Revisited as adapted by Bryony Lavery. The audience at the Nuffield Theatre, Southampton was a bit sparse – I hope that the word gets around and that the houses are full as it moves around the country before arriving in London at Richmond Theatre at the end of June.



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