To entirely avoid Dr Who’s 43rd birthday, my Dr dragged me somewhat kicking and sneering to the theatre. Thérèse Raquin is based on a novel by Zola, who was always good for a laugh. I read another of his while still a student, but it’s not nearly as cheery as Bananarama implied.
Thérèse is bored being married to Camille, a sickly boy with a dominant mother. But Laurent, Camille’s rough and painterly friend, is another sort of matter entirely. Soon Thérèse and Laurent are plotting a little accident... With Camille drowned, at last they are free to live and love together.
Although written before Zola’s "Les Rougon-Macquart" series, there’s a lot about hereditary evil. It’s suggested that Thérèse gets her minx-like ways from her boozy scoundrel of a dad, and a mother who… well, came from Africa. I find this funny, with my African wife and love of dry sherry.
The stage adaptation by Nicholas Wright (who also did the National’s amazing "His Dark Materials") deftly keeps everything in one room, the fantastically spooky atmosphere brought about by performance and sound effects.
There’s space for it to be trimmed back a bit, especially in a repeating sequence as Thérèse and Lauret lose themselves in a green-fug of guilt and recrimination. It’s not as effective as the way dialogue comes round again to mean something slightly different.
But generally it’s very effective. Codename Moose will be pleased to note that, being a French effort, there’s the obligatory flash of bare bosom. There’s some nice comic moments thank to the supporting cast, but this is a dour and dirty horror.
In many respects it’s a ghost story, or at least one about a haunted household.
Judy Parfitt is great as Camille’s mother, especially in the last quarter when she doesn’t say a word. And I kept expecting Patrick Kennedy to appear in spectral form – if only because it’s such a shame he’s written out quite so quickly.
We entertained ourselves on the way home casting Muppet movies of Jane Eyre and The Revenger’s Tragedy. I’d also like to see a Kurosawa samurai version of Pride and Prejudice, please.
Kiwi music: 'Lucky' by Fly My Pretties
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