STAGE REVIEW: Captain Corelli's Mandolin - Great book, lousy play

PUBLISHED: 10:04 20 July 2019 | UPDATED: 10:04 20 July 2019

MIND-NUMBING: Alex Mugnaioni as Captain Corelli and Madison Clare as Pelagia in Captain Corelli’s Mandolin Photo: Marc Brenner

MIND-NUMBING: Alex Mugnaioni as Captain Corelli and Madison Clare as Pelagia in Captain Corelli's Mandolin Photo: Marc Brenner

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TIM WALKER's take on the "mind-numbingly slow and boring" Captain Corelli's Mandolin at Pinter Theatre, London.

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I have neither read Louis de Bernières' romantic novel Captain Corelli's Mandolin, nor have I seen the film version, which starred Nicolas Cage and Penélope Cruz. This clearly put me at a distinct disadvantage as I attempted to make some sense of Rona Munro's stage adaptation which, now that I look back on it, seems like a strange hallucinogenic experience.

There is what appears to be a vast expanse of Bacofoil glued to the backdrop behind the actors upon which curious patterns are periodically projected. A goat and a cat are played less than convincingly by two women. There is a scene in which an old man pees over a vegetable patch and another in which a whole school of rubber fish are chucked across the stage.

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There is what I think is an attempt to recreate an earthquake, and, quite out of the blue, two men who had previously barely acknowledged each other decide that they are in love and kiss passionately.

I find myself staring at my notes in disbelief as I write this review the morning after the night before. If a man in a pub, downwind of five pints and with a taxi waiting outside, had tried to explain to me what Captain Corelli's Mandolin is all about I can't imagine he could have made a worse job of it.

For all its director Melly Still's experience, she seems to have made the elementary error of forgetting that theatre succeeds or fails on its own terms, and by its own rules. No matter how wonderful the source material may be, a production has to be judged in total isolation. Still should have known above all things that it's foolhardy to assume the punters have even troubled to read the programme notes - let alone reading a book - before they take their seats.

I might add that Captain Corelli doesn't show up until just before the end of the first act, and, while Alex Mugnaioni does what he can in the role, the production is by then well beyond the point of resuscitation. I should also say that, in addition to being surreal, the show is mind-numbingly slow and boring, so it fails on every conceivable level, which I have to say is regrettable as this theatre is committed to this godawful bed-blocker until the end of August.

Regent's Park Open Air Theatre's A Midsummer Night's Dream seems to be in keeping with a desperately worthy summer season that's so far signally failed to live up to the joie de vivre of the venue. This sturdy old Shakespearean classic is distinguished only by a fine comic turn from Myra McFadyen as Puck and a startlingly promising stage debut from Michael Elcock as Lysander, but Dominic Hill's production is otherwise unremarkable. I have high hopes that Evita - the final show of the season, which opens on August 2 - might yet set Regent's Park alight.

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