A review by Vanessa Bunn for EXTRA! EXTRA!

 

Galleon Theatre Company
presents

 

The Maias

 

Alice de Sousa as Maria Eduarda and Damian Quinn as Carlos da Maia in The Maias

Photo by Robert Gooch

 

Novel by Eça de Queirós

Adapted and Produced by Alice de Sousa

 

Directed by Bruce Jamieson

 

Greenwich Playhouse

 

8 March – 3 April 2011


 

The Maias is widely considered to be the masterpiece of 19th Century Portuguese writer José Maria Eça de Queirós. Alice De Sousa has created an earnest and entertaining adaptation which centres on the complicated affairs of Carlos De Maia and the high jinks of his closest friend João Ega. A simple, well arranged set provides an adequate backdrop for every scene. Luxurious tapered curtains meet striking religious iconography to visually create a conflict that is ever present in the play. Glass decanters, which never rest long on the side table, provide nourishment for moments of distress and celebration. A decorative chaise longue features in almost every dramatic turn. Set designer, Suneeda Maruthiyil has used her expertise to excellent effect in creating such a versatile, yet principally stationary set.

All three women that grace the stage in The Maias are beautiful and aware of their allure. Assertive and self-possessed, they provide ideas for adventure and an art for secrecy that eludes their male counterparts. Countess Gouvarinho (Helen Bang) is flirtatious and of all three is the most impulsive. Maria Eduarda (Alice de Sousa), conspicuously less elaborately dressed than the Countess, is more worldly and enigmatic. But outward appearances are continually challenged in the play, with Miss Sarah’s mischievous nature being well rendered by Providence Maydew and Mark Philip Compton’s Damaso far from the seducer his tales depict. Hugh Hemmings is superb as Afonso Da Maia, the mild mannered moral compass of the play. Though he could be considered as the least flamboyant character, his acerbic wit and mannerisms have the potential to leave a lasting impression long after the pomp and circumstance of others fade.

Religious, geographical, artistic and sexual tensions are all explored in The Maias. Lively criticism of the Catholic Church is most substantially upheld by Ega and he and Alencar, played by an energetic Barry Clarke, continually embody a clash between Realism and Idealism. The older characters are strenuously patriotic while for the younger set the grass is always greener elsewhere. This is especially true of Paris, which is upheld as the capital of fashion, art and everything pleasurable, while Lisbon, seemingly, kills progression and feeling. One thing all the characters are united on is the abandonment of the past; many of them find recollection almost painful.

A kind of paralysis plagues the characters. Actions are imagined and spoken about but not carried through. There features a disappointed duel, abandoned elopements and an emphatic report of the virtues of bullfighting from Alencar, a man one might suspect has never been a spectator at such an event. The written word is the true source of momentum in the play - letters are weapons and instigators of action. If Afonso Da Maia is the moral compass, Vilaça, the Maias family steward, is his social counterpart. Well informed, quietly judgemental and guarded throughout the play, it is he who lends the clearest voice to the position of the family at the climax of the play.

The Maias is an energetic and entertaining production. Though the scripting in the first half of the play seems slightly drawn out, necessary characterisations may have suffered if it were more concise. Expectations and stereotypes are challenged, and wit, which invokes Wildean comparisons at times, abounds at every opportunity.  Alice De Sousa’s adaptation of The Maias will send audience members who are not familiar with Eça de Queirós curiously seeking out the novel that inspired it.

 

Christopher Peacock as Craft, Barry Clarke as Alencar, Damian Quinn as Carlos da Maia in The Maias

Photo by Robert Gooch

 

Greenwich Playhouse
Greenwich Station Forecourt, 189 Greenwich High Road
London SE10 8JA
Tues – Sat 7.30pm, Sun 4pm
Tickets: £12, £10
Box Office: 0208 858 9256
boxoffice@galleontheatre.co.uk
 


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