Emile Zola’s novel Thèrese Raquin, adapted into a play, is playing at the Courtyard Theatre as part of the New Writing Festival. There is not much that is new about it though. Being that the story is familiar, one would think that the genre of writing or the staging would be fairly modern and fresh, but it fails to bring the element of surprise onto the stage.
Thèrese first strikes us as an unhappy woman, meek and powerless. She has been pushed into a marriage with her cousin to whom she wasn’t capable of saying no to. And as she is trapped into this pointless existence, Laurent, her husband’s friend, suddenly takes an interest in her and quite easily takes this desperate woman into his arms. Sophie Jones’ performance as Thèrese makes this character strange and mysterious at first. However there are conflicting moments where I lose track of who this woman really is.
Laurent and Thèrese quite simply decide to take Camille’s life in order to be together freely. When I say quite simply I mean it feels like they’ve just decided to take the last cookie from the cookie jar, which is to say: we know it is not right but it doesn’t really matter. The stakes aren’t high enough. It may be been due to Charlie Morgan’s slight overacting atpoints as Laurent, but I’m just not convinced by the couple’s supposed maddening love for each other. And as a domino piece that falls out of place, it effects all the rest of my understanding and connecting with the story.
And so my favourite character dies in the first half – Aidan Moriarty as Camille Raquin delivers a funny and compelling performance. We understand this character as spoiled, a bit arrogant, childish and somehow vain, but we excuse him and like him because he resembles a fragile child in need of love and protection. After his cold murder I just feel no further empathy for the two main characters, even as they are suffering with remorse – there is no build up and so it all feels unjustified.
This play is blessed to have at least some very good actors in the cast that fill this dark narrative with great moments of comic relief, especially the exuberant Andrew Seddon and the funny couple dynamic between Claire-Monique Martin’s Suzanne and Joseph Miller’s Olivier. Kaitlin Feeney is undoubtedly a joy to watch as Madame Raquin, with great comic timing and tragic tension.
Despite the great talent amongst the cast, there is too many aspects failing this production in order for them to be able to save it. One very important note: the set changes should never last the amount of time they did as it feels half the play has been merely set changing. It is important to find more economic or creative ways of inventing a space in the audience’s mind – maybe the carpet isn’t really as relevant to the storytelling.
This play definitely has some potential to grow and I hope there will be the space and time to nurture it in the future so it can achieve its best possible version. 3/5
Review written by Sofia Moura.
Thèrese Raquin is currently showing at the Courtyard Theatre until Saturday 7th February. For more information on the production, visit here…
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