The Hunchback of Notre Dame at Iris Theatre
How do you write a stage adaptation for a novel which has been done over and over again in a whole range of media? Rather than grappling with this question and musing over concerns of how to be as faithful as possible to the source material, the Iris Theatre and director Bertie Watkins decide to turn it into a work with plenty of humour, including audience interaction, breaking-the-fourth-wall jokes, slapstick and a frame narrative involving a group of traveling actors in 19th-century Paris. The result is a charmingly performed adaptation which almost makes Victor Hugo’s classic a comedy.
Of course, people seeking to receive a cathartic experience with all the drama, intrigue and tragedy they know and love from the original will inevitably be disappointed. This isn’t great theatre, per se, but one can hardly complain about an adaptation which goes out of its way to do one thing: entertain. And that it does superbly well. A lot of the writing is extremely effective, the comedy is top-notch and the actors are very quick-witted indeed when engaging with the enthusiastic audience. This performance sells itself as an “enchanting production for the whole family”, and that it is – it’s just fun to be there, and the kids certainly get to experience the story from a fresh angle. The atmospheric premises in and around St Paul’s Church are also utilised perfectly, adding to the sheer joy one can get out of the performance.
But it’s not all just a good laugh; at times the play does highlight the more dramatic elements of the story. While it is true that they take a backseat for most of the time, they do shine when they emerge. Kudos go especially to Izzy Jones as Esmeralda and Ed Bruggemeyer as Frollo, who have excellent chemistry on stage and conjure a good amount of genuine dislike for the latter and sympathy for the former.
All this doesn’t technically make the Iris Theatre’s Hunchback of Notre Dame a ground-breaking adaptation – certainly not a faithful one – but it is a fun and heartfelt project, and one can only applaud an attempt which is inevitably going to warm the hearts of a new generation of theatregoers to one of the greatest novels ever written.
Photo: Iris Theatre
The Hunchback of Notre Dame is at Iris Theatre from 1st August until 1st September 2019. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.