Theatre Review: Mrs Dalloway, Arcola Theatre, Hackney
- Credit: Archant
A thoughtful, intelligent dramatisation of Virginia Woolf’s novel is marred by jarring theatrical gimmicks
Hal Coase tackles Virginia Woolf’s swirling stream of consciousness style in a new adaptation of Mrs Dalloway - the fictional post World War I society hostess.
As we follow her over a day of party preparations, the point of view shifts between multiple characters. Theatre company Forward Arena use modern technology in a predominantly classical staging to try and bed the novel into a relevant theatrical form. The production hits some fittingly elegiac notes but struggles to capture Woolf’s mellifluous flow.
Director Thomas Bailey plays up the novel’s preoccupation with identity and Woolf’s questioning of what constitutes character through the colour-blind casting of the novel’s titular protagonist.
Clare Perkins is touching as Clarissa Dalloway; less the dried up 51-year-old, upper class socialite and more of an everywoman haunted by the choice she has made to marry government official Richard instead of embracing a more honest union with socialist, life-long friend Peter or her teenage true love, vivacious Sally.
You may also want to watch:
Clarissa now fills her hours with pointless distractions so that ‘year by year her share is sliced.’
The set is achingly, appropriately plain. A bare set is punctuated by two canvasses: one that suggests Clarissa’s defining memory which is the childhood landscape of her continuous present and charmed youth at Bourton; the other a window through which traumatized war veteran Septimus [society’s sacrificial lamb and her alter-ego] jumps to his death.
- 1 Three men who went on stabbing spree in Hackney convicted of murder
- 2 "Outcry" over fortnightly rubbish collection in Stamford Hill
- 3 "Predator" jailed after sexually assaulting sleeping woman on Hackney bus
- 4 Reopening week saw “record-breaking” days at pubs in Hoxton
- 5 70 firefighters tackle Old Street tower block blaze
- 6 Hackney volunteers tend to Overground station gardens
- 7 Three men charged following Hackney shooting
- 8 NEU members continue strike action at Leaways
- 9 Jailed: Newham men who raped and robbed women in Hackney home
- 10 Hackney schoolgirl and actress Bukky Bakray wins Bafta
A few chairs, tables and occasional microphones pepper the narrative while trendy theatrical touches make occasional jarring appearances: Clarissa’s big love Peter articulates his private frustrations into a Dictaphone and the party scene is staged with characters sitting in a row behind a table manically chattering whilst discarding numerous name tags onto the floor.
I could have done without the convivial talking to audience introduction. Pacing is better when fewer gimmicks are deployed. Emma D’Arcy and Clare Lawrence Moody are superb in a pitch perfect scene as Clarissa’s daughter, young Elizabeth, goes on a shopping trip with her born-again, repressed tutor.
A thoughtful and intelligent production and there is real magic in the simpler moments.