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A review by Vanessa Bunn for EXTRA! EXTRA!

 

 

 

20 South Street in association with Brockley Jack Studio Theatre presents

 

Summer

 


Joanne Gale (Charity) in Summer
Photographer: Timothy Stubbs Hughes

 

 

by Julia Stubbs Hughes

Based on the novel by Edith Wharton

Director - Timothy Stubbs Hughes

Designer – Stephanie Williams

Lighting – Katherine Lowry

Sound/Composer – Millie Cook

Costumes – Alessia Alba

 

Brockley Jack Studio Theatre

 

8 – 26 May 2012

 

Based on Edith Wharton’s novel of the same name, Summer depicts the sexual awakening of Charity Royall (Joanne Gale) who was born in an uncivilized mountain community to a criminal and a prostitute, only to be rescued and taken into a remote neighbouring community by Lawyer Royall (Francis Adams) as a child and reared as his daughter. In the opening scene Charity is portrayed as a melancholic youth bored by the sleepy town she lives in and its aged population. The arrival of dapper young architect Lucius Harney (Jeffrey Mundell) offers a glimmer of excitement and before long she timidly assents to acting as his driver for a scholarly expedition, collecting information on the old properties in the vicinity for a book he is preparing.

As details of her origins emerge and the boundaries in her relationship with her guardian blur, a more composite picture of Charity and the sources of her morose, disinterested gait become more apparent. While her desire to escape the confines of small-town North Dormer is made much of in the script, it is hard to believe that Charity, in her staid, mechanized state really wants to leave; her tenuous attachment to Lawyer and her fascination with the mountain she calls home are positioned to combine in fatalistic ends. While her intensifying relationship with Harney tumbles into the sexual, a strange sense of detachment prevails. Dancing, as a metaphor for love-making consumes both actors in singular displays of abandon, but at one and the same time external influences such as Lawyer Royall’s insistence on their marriage, and Harney’s connection with society girl Annabel Balch threaten their bliss.

Music and sound effects composed and arranged by Millie Cook are engrossing; string arrangements lend a sense of gravity and foreboding from the earliest scenes. Fireworks, audible, but not visible, are arranged with precision, and dripping sounds convey the dank and dismal setting of the mountain when Charity and Harney seek shelter during one of their outings. The set is sparse, and sense of space is informed by dim lighting, with illuminations at intervals signifying scene changes. Lighting is controlled in this careful and solemn way by Katherine Lowry, who aids the manipulation of the dark floorboards and basic seating into everything from cavernous shelter to doctor’s surgery.

One would anticipate the relationships between these three characters, specifically chosen by the writer to carry the plot of an entire novel, to be intense and flagrant, but somehow each one remains emotionally and physically independent from the others to a considerable extent. Francis Adams’ Laywer Royall is the most forcefully rendered character, and a curiosity around his history and motives deepens as he is simultaneously represented as an aggressive drunk, an affectionate guardian and a lecherous opportunist. Charity and Harney come to embody a theme which transcends their own relationship to include a broader comparison of traditional village life and the expectations within its confines, versus a progressive cosmopolitan ideal espousing freedom and frivolity.

 

 
 
Box Office: 0844 847 2454

 

www.brockleyjack.co.uk
Brockley Jack Studio Theatre
410 Brockley Road, London SE4 2DH
Tickets £10/£10
 

 

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