james debate
james debate

Friday 30 October 2009

Directed by Jonathan Munby
Written by Pedro Calderon de la Barca, Helen Edmundson
Starring Dominic West, Rupert Evans, Kate Fleetwood
Production company The Donmar
Theatre The Donmar Warehouse

The Donmar pulls off another memorable production with Dominic West absolutely captivating as the lead role Segismundo.

donmar life is a dream

The first thing that strikes you when you set your eyes on the stage is the minimalist nature of the production. Pretty much no stage props and only a minimal backdrop of peeling gold and wrought iron, enough to generate the impression of tainted grandeur.

It's a dark mirror image of the play that unfolds, telling the story of Segismundo, a Polish prince who is locked in a tower by his father the King because of a prophecy that ordains that Segismundo is a beast who will bring chaos to his Kingdom (anyone familiar with the oedipus story can probably see where this is going).

Meanwhile Kate Fleetwood, plays a ferocious Rosaura, a woman on a mission of revenge. Cinema patrons may recognise her from the Donmar's Hecuba production a few years ago where I first noticed her, and I am glad to say she even outshines this performance in her new role.

However the main plaudits must go to Dominic West, who many will recognise from TV's the Wire. He is excellent and brings a raw power to bear upon his characters deep torment in a way that is thoroughly convincing of West's total involvement in the role.

The acting is a joy to behold throughout the entire cast, with a superb comic turn from Lloyd Hutchinson and Rupert Evans striking a particularly absorbing balance between charming and slimy/unlikable.

If i had one criticism it would be that the writing sometimes seems to strain a bit. It's not clear if this is merely the result of some muddled rewriting by Helen Edmundston, or if something is getting lost in the translation from Calderon's original text, but the 'deep' moments of discussion with regards to the nature of reality and destiny often sound a bit contrived and hackhanded. Often I found that while there were interesting points raised by the story, a fair amount of the dialogue seemed to miss these intricacies out or not do them justice. That being said, one has to admire the script for the deft comedic touch that is present throughout, even in darker more serious scenes, and aside from these few weak moments the writing is of a high standard.

Another excellent production you would do well to go and see if you like real theatre.

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