The Talented Mr Ripley
Reviving their 2015 sell-out run of Patricia Highsmith’s dark psychological thriller, The Faction ensemble give an outstanding performance of The Talented Mr Ripley that is daring and original, in collaboration with New Diorama Theatre.
Tom Ripley (Christopher Hughes) types with his back to the audience. Standing to face the crowd, rhetorically questioning, “Have you ever had the feeling you’re being followed?”, the cast suddenly appear from behind a large dais; imaginatively designed by Suzy Foster, the platform with a middle square space allows actors to hide and emerge seamlessly.
Herbert Greenleaf (Marcello Walton) meets Ripley in a bar, and soon bequeaths the responsibility upon him to bring his son Dickie back from Italy. The young antagonist’s sociopathic tendencies are presented well by Hughes, who feverishly relays asides to the audience while appeasing Herbert. Dressed in a cheap suit and horn-rimmed glasses, Hughes mirrors Matt Damon in certain lighting – the Hollywood actor starred as the antihero in director Anthony Minghella’s 1999 feature – and it is evident the production is inspired by the film. Though his character is sharply acted with an ever-shining glint in his eyes, Hughes comes across too loud; perhaps toning down his vocal projections would let Ripley’s nuanced characteristics arise farther to the fore. Furthermore, the decision to play Ripley as an Englishman does not work well, an error in artistic judgement that could have easily been avoided.
Christopher York’s confidently vain Dickie Greenleaf alongside Natasha Rickman’s glamorous and melancholic Marge Sherwood are both portrayed very well. Tonight’s audience are rapt, and like Highsmith’s eponymous 1955 novel, the show’s central figure is desperate to be loved and yearns for a better social standing, whilst simultaneously proving himself to be unnerving and increasingly paranoid. The cast act unself-consciously, but the idea behind having figures yelling “cut” and “action” intermittently does not work in the drama’s favour, creating unnecessary confusion.
Overall, director Mark Leipacher’s production is proof that classic novels can still be adapted to stage in an absorbing manner, reaching new audiences. There are stand-out scenes, like the swaying cast signifying a bus ride, Ripley’s descent into madness, and the homoeroticism between him and Dickie illustrated through Hughes standing behind York, while the latter is intimate with Rickman. Moreover, the option to use captions through downloaded application The Difference Engine – devised by Talking Birds Theatre – is resourceful, making dialogue simple to follow, and attesting to the loyalty of this production to Highsmith’s original.
Photo: The Faction
The Talented Mr Ripley is at the Crescent from 13th until 17th March 2019. For further information or to book visit the show’s festival page here.
Read more reviews from our Vault Festival 2019 coverage here.
For further information about the event visit the Vault Festival website here.