Photo – Sarah Walker
One has been known to be of the opinion that horror, and the gothics, do not work terribly well on the stage, as it is the fear of the unknown that is the most frightening of all, and the stage simply isn’t a medium terribly suited to concealment… But this is of no concern for this production.
Audiences and readers have always been most afraid of what lies in the shadows. So much so, that they spend very little time concerned with what lies within. Perhaps we should be most afraid of what we have made of ourselves, afraid of never achieving our dreams, afraid of what might become of us if we did … perhaps we should be afraid of how little people have really changed in the past century and a half since Emile Zola’s original telling of Therese Raquin occurred. It is not the dangers in the shadows that haunt this story, it is the dangers within… and it is a stunning psychological experience.
Stylistically, this production comes across as very Chekhovian. The set and costumes, by Jacob Battista and Chloe Greaves, very much of the realist school, which was a wise choice on the part of director; Gary Abrahams. The realism of the set allowed it to fade into the background, which afforded a much greater focus on the wonderful cast, without too many distracting effects. Although, having said that, the set left the most marvellous impression of a cross between Tim Burton’s Sweeney Todd, and the BBC/PBS series Sherlock, adding a touch of mystery and danger throughout the play.
This play starts slow. However, by the middle of the first act, the audience has already begun to warm to the characters, and the dangers of the world in which they live begin to become apparent. The Parisian setting is less “the city of love”, and more like Dickensian London, or possibly even darker. The cast as a whole are faultless in their roles. It takes a degree of skill on the part of an actor for an audience to become personally invested in the death, and it is a particular skill to convincingly portray a character with complete paralysis. That being said, Jessica Clarke really steals the show in the title role. Clarke is vibrant and utterly convincing in the role of Therese.
The carefully finessed skills in the acting and directing of this show is only apparent in one’s visceral response.
A Dirty Pretty Theatre & Critical Stages production
by Gary Abrahams
Directed by Gary Abrahams
Venue: The National Theatre | 20 Carlisle St, St Kilda VIC
Dates: 31 May – 1 June 2017
Tickets: $25 – $40