Royal National Theatre (Lyttelton), London SE1
Opened 18 May, 2002

** It's faithful to the book: a flash, self-regarding mess

Why does the National Theatre think this is the sort of work it should be doing when smaller venues are already doing it better?

The auditorium has been re-raked and shrunk a bit, and the stage extended: £1.6 million to turn the Lyttelton Theatre into a higher-tech version of the main house at Battersea Arts Centre, only with less comfortable seating. The opening presentation, too, is the sort of thing more likely to be seen at BAC on a fraction of this budget.

Jeanette Winterson takes the word "novel" seriously, believing that the fiction book should be made constantly new and fresh. Unfortunately, she also has something of a belief that whatever she chooses to do will by definition fit that bill. The PowerBook contains moments of great impact about the extremities and determinations of love, but overall it's a shapeless, undisciplined ramble, and this adaptation made with director Deborah Warner and actor Fiona Shaw does nothing to impose any coherence on it. The narrator's online fictional affair still lopes in and out of exotic locations and other stories (Lancelot and Guinevere, Paolo and Francesca) at self-regarding whim. It's ravishing to watch, and Saffron Burrows as Shaw's innamorata turns in a captivating performance, but it feels like the National trying too hard to be hip.

Written for

Copyright © Ian Shuttleworth; all rights reserved.

Return to index of reviews for the year 2002

Return to master reviews index

Return to main theatre page

Return to Shutters homepage