Muddy Reviews: Lady Chatterley’s Lover, Theatre Royal, Brighton
A story that needs no introduction, DH Lawrence’s novel Lady Chatterley’s Lover has been the subject of many film and TV adaptations but how does it work on the stage? … and do they get their kit off ? (come on, I know that’s what you’re wondering!)
This production from the ever reliable English Touring Theatre and Sheffield Theatres is on at Brighton’s Theatre Royal until Saturday 19 Nov. It uses a modern minimalist staging which reminded me of the company’s treatment of Brideshead Revisited earlier in the year. Pieces of furniture and props rather than scenery evoke a sense of place. At the start they are liberated piece by piece from under dust sheets.
Some scenes, particularly at the beginning, are short and abrupt, mere snapshots cutting to black to set up the plot of the Lady Chatterley (Heydydd Dylan) and her husband (Eugene O’Hare), who has been invalided is the Great War and is no longer able to stand up… in any sense.
There’s a great use made of sound effects to contrast Lady Chatterley’s two worlds – the tense ticking clock and bashing of her husband’s typewriter inside her house and the bird calls of the woodland around the hut where she finds freedom in wild abandonment with the gamekeeper Mellors (Jonah Russell). There’s a pianist providing live accompaniment on stage for several scenes.
It should go without saying that Lady Chatterley is not something to see if you are easily offended. There are four letter words (amusingly these had to be read out at the obscenity trial over the book in the 1960s), there is also full frontal nudity, though it mostly occurs in scenes with touching moments of the emotional rather than physical kind. The longest kit off section is for a conversation between the protagonists while they’re sitting on a stage strewn with flowers.
I’ve noticed, having seen a few of their productions now, that the ETT likes to play with expectations, so the first time Lady Chatterley sheds her clothes it’s quite a shock, coming as it does in a scene of a medical rather than sexual nature. Another scene has a quirky staging of a rain shower with real water streams caught in buckets.
The acting is solid, keeping up accents (Mellors in particular) and bringing out both the tragedy and the humour of the story. There was real emotion at the end when Lady Chatterley returns from abroad to find an unexpected change of circumstances for each of the men in her life.
The World War One centenary and themes of class division and even feminism mean this story from 1928 still has resonance today and the simple staging helps make it feel ageless. There were whoops of appreciation from the audience at the curtain call.
Lady Chatterley’s Lover runs at the Theatre Royal daily Tues 15 – Sat 19 Nov at 7.45pm with additional matinees on Thurs and Sat at 2.30pm. Tickets cost from £16.90 Theatre Royal, New Road, Brighton, 0844 871 7650