Everyman Theatre – Thérèse Raquin
Chapter Arts Centre
Wednesday 29th November 2017
*Naturalist spoilers follow*
I’m still recovering from The Romans in Britain, one of Everyman’s more recent, ballsy works. The harsh demeanour and brutal story was an unrelenting misery to wade through. Yet here, is something a bit more palatable.
Émile Zola, the king of naturalism, had his first big hit with Thérèse Raquin, a novel which caused a scandal and was the book to read back in 1867. The mania would continue with Zola making it a stage play a few years later. With a translation by Nicholas Wright, the play is billed a thriller, though the atmosphere of that genre only wafts in during the latter two acts.
It’s a devilish story which sees Thérèse having an affair with Laurent. They both conspire to kill her husband, Camille, in the dastardly plot which reveals the real misery for the two of them: getting what you want but being haunted by the decision. The play paints a very real depiction of how somebody may handle a murder, as is proof in the unrelenting guilt and sorrow these two experience. It’s a heartless act to commit and only sours their relationship, pushing them to the depths of despair. After a brief moment of murder plotting against one another, they quickly realise the other’s actions and plan to poison one another. It’s one of those really feel good endings, as you leave with a spring in your step…
The two leads do a bang-up job with the parts. Thérèse is here played by Josephine Partridge, cat-like in her ways. She maintains this double life of fake laziness along with a brief moment of passion, with grace and a frenzied poise. Steven Smith as Laurent, the dashing painter who plays the cheerful card at the idea of marriage a year later, only for the two of them to fall ever deeper into depression. He greets the end of their relationships (and their suicide) at first with fury, arrogance and later acceptance.
A shame not to see Phillip Jones as poor Camille for longer. Phillip is a cracking character actor and certainly looked the part of a Parisian gentleman. We see his fussy nature and anxious bewilderment cloud his mindset for his brief time on stage. Even the portrait by Phil John has a clarity to it that makes it instantly recognisable as Mr Jones. As his mother, Karen Walters is like a grandmother, if a little pedestrian. Should she even move her face at all at the end, when she discovers the awful truth and goes into a vegetated state? More suspense is required in her scene in which she tries to tell the guests what they have both done.
Additional fun is had with Darren Perks and Paul Fanning, as Grivet and Michaud. These two always seem to come at the wrong time, even when they are expected for their silly little game of dominoes. Each adds a squirt of the odd to show, both characters stuck in their ways and obsessional tics which grate upon the others. Whilst Suzanne is not the most enthralling part, Emma Kaler plays her with a sensible nature and considerate tone.
Barry Slack, the director, shows his love of the play by finding the right actors for the parts. There are the little am- dram moments where an actor may fluff a line or a prop might fall, yet the play has the habit of sucking you in with its wonderfully melodramatic grip, you can’t break away.
Twisted, though filled with regrets.
Thérèse Raquin continues at Chapter Arts Centre until 2nd December 2017.
Everyman Theatre stage The Great Gatsby – Chapter, 27th February to 3rd March 2018.
Cover photo credit: Everyman Theatre Cardiff Website
Photo Credit: Everyman Theatre Website