Captain Corelli’s Mandolin at Rose Theatre Kingston
Bar a film adaptation that introduced moviegoers to Nicolas Cage’s inexplicable Italian accent, the legacy of Louis de Bernières’s acclaimed Captain Corelli’s Mandolin is one that remains relatively unscathed. Directed by Melly Still and adapted for the stage by Rona Munro, this production is one that, for the most part, thankfully looks set to continue that tradition during its theatre run.
The play begins, and one of the first words uttered on stage is “love”. Fitting indeed, as it is both the joy and anguish of old, new and lost love that drive much of the narrative. Set on the Greek Island of Cephalonia and juxtaposed against the backdrop of the Italian and German occupation of the Second World War, the story’s characters navigate life and love through a period marked by increasing conflict. Carlo (Ryan Donaldson) is a soldier who gradually disconnects following the loss of his almost-lover, Francesco, during battle. After the death of her son Madras, Drosoula (Eve Polycarpou) gains renewed purpose upon finding an abandoned baby whom she ultimately helps adopt. Pelagia (in a memorable performance by Madison Clare) is a woman broken, built and broken again by love. Providing philosophical commentary throughout is her father, Dr Iannis. The moments in which he waxes lyrical to Pelagia about the deep love he shared with her late mother serve to signify the importance of love especially in times of crisis.
Scenes frequently and purposefully transition from care-free life at home, to harrowing moments on the battlefield in an instant, highlighting the unrelenting nature of war. Whether accompanied with the sound of piercing gunfire or the synchronised steps of a march, these seamless transitions transport the audience immediately. In one memorable scene, Captain Corelli (Alex Mugnaioni) sits playing his mandolin. As he strums, the lighting changes while the cast effortlessly move around him, simultaneously adding and removing clothing and props to signify the seasons changing. Despite the subject matter, there are also moments of levity. Luisa Guerreiro and Elizabeth Mary Williams expertly portraying both a goat and pine marten respectively is particularly noteworthy.
Though the plot for the most part seems adequately covered considering the restrictions adapting a novel for the stage brings, Pelagia and Corelli’s budding romance unfortunately suffers from the format. With Corelli only making his first appearance at the end of the first Act, there is no time to fully explore the relationship and give it the weight it truly deserves. Even the hopeful final scene feels a little hollow as a result.
There is no denying that anyone attempting to adapt this book for the stage would have a sizeable task on their hands, and Munro and Still certainly make a valiant effort. A thoroughly enjoyable interpretation, this production is a vivid retelling of a classic and a real treat for the senses. Just don’t expect to be too swept away by the romance.
Photo: Marc Brenner
Captain Corelli’s Mandolin is at Rose Theatre Kingston from 23rd April until 12th May 2019. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.
Watch the trailer for Captain Corelli’s Mandolin here: