adapted by Rosanna Lowe from the novel by Gustave Flaubert
Photo by Joe Brown
Tue 10 - Sat 14 April 2018 at 7.30pm
The Playhouse Theatre, Clare Street, Northampton NN1 3JA
CAST & CREW
Charles Bovary / Lheureux / Coachman / Blind Barrel-Organ Man Lou Chawner
Rodolphe / Homais / Charles's Father / 1st Mme Bovary / Nun 3 / Beadle / Bailiff / Berthe (puppet) / Opera Singer Beverley Webster
Leon / Charles's Mother / Justin / Roualt / Priest / Nun 2 Mired Kearins
Lheureux's Little Helper / Nun 1 / Djali (puppet) Alex Rex
Additional characters played by the cast
Directors Alex Rex, Tamsyn Payne
Production Design Tamsyn Payne
Stage Manager / Tech Design Megan Lucas
Assistant Stage Manager / Mistress of 1,000 props Lisa Wright
Live Music Score / Photography Joe Brown
Nuns' Chorus / Opera revised by Beverley Webster
Puppets Lauren Hubbard (Berthe & Djali), Elizabeth Palmer (Baby & Nuns)
Costumes made by Pam Mann, Tamsyn Payne
Additional Costumes Clare Brittain at The Works
Hair & Makeup Sidone McDowell
Set Build Megan Lucas, Emma Barrow, Tamsyn Payne, David Payne
Prop Makers Lisa Wright, Elizabeth Palmer, Kathy Ingram
Programme Design Tamsyn Payne
Front of House Masque Theatre members
I have to say that I came to this performance, not with a sense of foreboding but a sense of curiosity.
How on earth were Tamsyn Payne and Alex Rex going to do it?
I know the novel quite well – I’ve read it at least twice and it’s pretty grim. There’s a harrowing death scene where the effects of arsenic poisonIng are described in gruesome detail and there are sex scenes which made me raise my eyebrows even in these enlightened times.
Goodness knows what they made of such gritty realism in the nineteenth century!
And what’s more, I was uneasy about the cross casting. How were two women going to play Emma’s lovers convincingly?
But I’d reckoned without Tamsyn’s creative theatrical flair. And quite simply I was blown away by the production.
'Essence of good theatre'
To start with, Tamsyn used an idea which is the essence of good theatre – she created a set which can transform from one thing to another with ease, thus enabling the play to flow along without a pause. Because the set was moveable the actors could hide behind it and execute the multitude of costumes changes, pick up all the props and create different theatrical effects at will.
And didn’t they do it well? I recognised the hours of practice that must have gone into getting it all to run smoothly – so well done Alex for conquering that particular nightmare.
And the puppets! It’s a real lesson that you don’t have to have to make things look absolutely real for them to be effective in theatre. The dog and the baby in particular worked well BECAUSE they didn’t look real. The audience supplied the realism for them.
I can’t leave this section without mentioning Megan Lucas, who built the set and operated the dozens of light and sound clues – she deserves a laurel wreath all of her own. Either that or she had a trained octopus up there in the lighting box with her!
So to the actors: there wasn’t a weak link. I was full of admiration at the way Lou Chawner negotiated both the stage and his various changes of costume while also relying on a pair of crutches. He did it so adroitly that my companion thought that it was part of the theatrical concept until I pointed out to her that Lou had actually broken his leg.
What about Beverley Webster and Mairead Kearins? To be frank, I was astonished at how they were so convincing, not in a naturalistic way but in the way they created broad comic characters which underneath had a sense of truth. It’s invidious to pick one of the characters out because they were all so good but I shall remember Bev’s Rodolphe for a long time – that wonderful false moustache, his macho man-spreading and his caddish behaviour.
The central character is of course Emma Bovary and she has to be a true tragic heroine at the heart of all the madcap characters. Julia Langley brought this off with consummate ease. She demonstrated an astounding range of emotions from the beginning as a naïve girl to the end with it’s terrible denouement. But above all she was utterly believable.
This performance of Madame Bovary demonstrated to me something that I have known about and believed for the whole of my career: that theatre at its best is the most powerful medium there is. What it needs though is someone with a sense of creativity and flair who is prepared to break out of the constricting shackles of realism. This, Tamsyn, Alex and her team did triumphantly!
Rosanna Lowe's high energy comic version of Gustave Flaubert's seminal 19th century masterpiece.
Emma has a head full of religious nonsense and romantic novels when she marries Dr Charles Bovary. But married love is not as fulfilling as she had imagined…
Masque's production is brought to you by the creative team behind A Midsummer Nights Dream: Alex Rex, Megan Lucas and me.
This is a very funny, physical version of the story.
The themes of frustration, unfulfilled ambition and the folly of youth are still there but the whole thing is played very light, which only serves to make the darker elements even more so.
Masque Theatre's production is directed by Tamsyn Payne and Alex Rex.