Independent Theatre’s latest theatrical fare is a rich, colourful, carnivale adaptation of the classic novel Vanity Fair.
The literary genius of classic novelist William Makepeace Thackeray has been adapted for the stage with creative flair by Rob Croser.
Also director and designer, Croser has cleverly created a carnival setting with a colourful troupe of actors bedecked in brightly hued lycra tops, satin pantaloons and stripey stockings.
A surprisingly outlandish and yet commanding Ringmaster in David Roach leads the troupe. As the story unfolds, the actors don different corsets, cloaks and other such articles of clothing that help distinguish the multiple parts played. The rich satins and vibrant colours add a gaiety to a Regency satire that could have otherwise been ponderous.
The play starts with a fanfare – a burst of sound, colour and light and the troupe takes over. Each actor plays multiple parts, and has plenty to say in asides to the audience. This is a novel approach to the classic novel, and it works!
Thackeray’s characters are not particularly likeable and nor did he intend them to be. The original title of the novel is “Vanity Fair: A Novel Without a Hero”. The book and the play are satire at its best.
The main character, Becky Sharp is played beautifully by Anna Steen. Steen’s Becky is a despicable, cunning manipulator, who uses her charms to exploit anyone who crosses her path. Becky Sharp is an unscrupulous con woman and in Steen’s hands utterly compelling.
Peta Long is a wonderful foil as the sweet but nevertheless self-obsessed Amelia Sedley. Long cleverly portrays the genuine concern that Amelia has for her own obsessive love. In contrast her Lady Crawley is a strong and moral woman, arguably the only likeable character.
Kathryn Fisher delivers a command performance as she masters the art of asides to the audience delivering some of the drollest lines in the play. Each character she plays drips with mesmerizing irony.
Roach is in fine form and is entertaining as the Ringmaster, suitably satirical as Sir Pitt Crawley and masterful in his other roles. Michael Pole proves his comic skills in multiple roles and shines as the buffoon Jos Sedley.
Each player excels in this troupe. This is ensemble work at its best as the role changes are smooth, seamless and add to the hilarity.
In the hands of Croser and his team Vanity Fair is a fresh, sharp comedy that speaks volumes about a self-obsessed portion of Regency society. It may be set in Regency times, but the moral is not lost on the equally self-obsessed “me” society in the 21st Century. Is it the circle of life, or perhaps the circus of life?
Independent Theatre is held in high regard for its stage adaptations of many of the classics of literature. The company breathes new life into these classics without detracting from what made them brilliant in the first place. Once again they have entertained, stimulated and left the thought hanging – “Has society really not changed?”
Independent Theatre presents
by Rob Croser | adapted from W. M. Thackeray's novel
Director Rob Croser
Venue: Odeon Theatre | Queen Street, Norwood
Dates/Times: November 7, 12, 13, 14, 19, 20, 21 at 7.30 pm; November 11, 18 at 6.30 pm
Matinees: November 8, 15 at 4.00 pm
Tickets: $30 / $25 (plus booking fees)
Bookings: BASS on 131 246 | www.independenttheatre.org.au