Soho Theatre + Writers' Centre, London W1
Opened 17 January, 2002

*** Lively, thoughtful adaptation of Angela Carter's novel

Shared Experience bring their trademark combination of textual intelligence and physical inventiveness to this touring production.

Watching this show, I was reminded that often I simply don't get irony on the page; the number of laughs here surprised and (at first) affronted me, until I realised they were part of the complexity of Carter's writing. The story of teenager Melanie, orphaned and assigned to her tyrannical toymaker uncle and his unorthodox household, is not just one of Carter's sparky parables on awakening female sexuality, but also about class and coming to terms with a socially complex world from which one has previously been sheltered: the laughs come not simply from Melanie's half-innocent musings upon sex, but from the bourgeois language and mindset in which they are expressed.

Bryony Lavery is never less than an efficient playwright and adaptor, and here she catches the air of Carter's book well. Hannah Watkins as Melanie gives a strong central performance even when hampered in her physicality by a back injury. Rebecca Gatward's direction is very much in the Shared Experience style, but in staging this most dreamlike of narratives, the final leap into theatrical wonder never quite occurs.

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Copyright © Ian Shuttleworth; all rights reserved.

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