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A Tale of Two Cities (Susan Elkin reviews)

Lindley Players, Whitstable Playhouse.

You can always rely on Dickens to draw a crowd. He did it in his own lifetime with readings and performances and he still does it now. Whitstable Playhouse was fuller than I’ve ever seen it for A Tale of Two Cities which must be very gratifying for the ever-versatile Lindley Players.

Matthew Francis’s faithful adaption ensures that we hear plenty of Dickens’s voice loud and clear too. Francis stops short of using a narrator as such but frequently puts third person narrative into the mouths of appropriate characters or sometimes a member of the ensemble – a well directed (by Peter Hunt and Lucie Nash) cast of eighteen in this case. It’s a device which drives the story telling on in a pacey and effective way.

Another strength is the use of ensemble to create stylised tableaux – especially at the end of Act 1 as the Revolution starts and in the guillotine scenes. What fun the large team of set constructors must have had with that guillotine too. Designed by Peter Harrington, it’s pretty convincing in action.

There are some very creditable performances in this show too. Dan Coles is variously impassioned, resigned, determined and troubled as Sydney Carton. Emma Thomas does the very best she can with Lucie Manette one of Dickens’s many wet, vapid heroines. Melanie Sacre is enjoyable as Miss Pross – a Dickensian benign eccentric and he was much better at those – in an absurd ruched lampshade bonnet (well done, costume department). Roy Drinkwater finds all the right warmth and decency in Mr Lorry and there’s terrific work from Vicky Wilsher as Madame Defarge. Often she’s an impassive, unsmiling, knitting observer. At other times she flares into unbridled passion or venomous anger. It’s a nicely judged and pleasingly controlled performance.

I’m not usually keen on background music. But Mia Soteriou’s original score – played live by Louise Blakey, Peter Bressington and Roy Brown really adds depth to the drama in this show. Ranging in style from excited to mournful and folksy to avant garde the music is quite a tour de force.

Another fine piece of work, from Lindley Players which has Boeing Boeing, Jack the Ripper: a new musical and The Lion in Winter coming up later this year.

First published by Sardines: http://www.sardinesmagazine.co.uk/reviews/review.php?REVIEW-Lindley%20Players%20Limited,%20The-A%20Tale%20Of%20Two%20Cities&reviewsID=2802

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Susan Elkin
Susan Elkin Susan Elkin is an education journalist, author and former secondary teacher of English. She was Education and Training Editor at The Stage from 2005 - 2016
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