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A CurtainUp London Review
The Postman Always Rings Twice
Bunny Christie's sets are almost worth the journey on their own, they are full of wonderful lighting breaking through slatted blinds. The "Twinoaks"light bulb sign above the Papadakis' restaurant creaks in the wind and sways dangerously. The whole set is almost monochrome, shades of black and off white and sepias, the glass dusty and smeared, the floorboards bare. Add the jazz notes of Django Bates' score and the atmosphere created is second to none. There is a spectacular car crash as an old vehicle crashes through the artificial roof of the stage, its headlights illuminating the figures below and the car dominates the action later in the play, as a metaphor for the cloud which hangs over Frank and Cora.
But having said that, The Postman Always Rings Twice doesn't strike that great production high note that one might expect. Why? It's hard to put one's finger on it. Val Kilmer plays his scenes understatedly, admirably, with an economy of emotion. Perhaps what happens is that we care too little about his fate and that of Cora.
The sex scenes are full blown, as explicit and steamy as any you will see on the London stage and very exciting. Charlotte Emmerson is fine as Cora, the tense girl from Des Moines who marries Nick Papadakis to avoid being blown along like life's flotsam. Frank convinces her that her only way out is to murder her husband. That murder is finely staged in a shower with real water, again at circle level. It's a scene Hitchcock would have been proud of.
There is loads to like here besides the dramatic and extravagant staging which wouldn't be out of place in a 1980s Lloyd Webber musical. Lovely set pieces where all the cast are gathered onstage like a period photograph of a 1940s work place. There are wonderful cameo performances from the State Trooper (Mac McDonald) and the detectives. Joe Alessi excels in both his roles, Nick the restaurant owner who has overreached himself in taking a young wife and later, as the fast talking lawyer Katz. There seems to be real perspiration and grime on Frank's clothes. But the whole does not quite come off. I must rent the video to see if the Jack Nicolson film is much better than this interesting staging or whether that too will leave me feeling mildly disappointed.
Retold by Tina Packer of Shakespeare & Co.
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