This adaptation of Hemingway’s famous novel about the lost generation who survived WWI bristles with lust and spiritual longing. Ex-pat American writers Jake Barnes and Robert Cohn are soaking up the excesses of post war Paris with matey abandon when the irresistible Lady Brett Ashley turns up, newly divorced and looking for excitement.
It’s hard to convey bullfighting backdrop on stage, particularly one as small as the basement of the Trafalgar Studios, but the essential ingredients of love, danger and lust are all there, and the Jazz ensemble ‘Trio Farouche’ add to the atompshere of decadence and excitement.
The novel is as much about the bromance between Jake (Gideon Turner) and Robert (Jye Frasca), as about the Lady Brett, but in the stage version her influence dominates. Despite being described as ‘a drunk’ and a ‘whore’ Lady Brett never loses her nerve and having survived the spectacle of her first bullfight, she focusses on the promising young bullfighter Pedro Romero, who is played with sensitivity and humour by Jack Holden.
Josie Taylor makes a good job of Brett’s seduction scenes which are vivid and entertaining. With the audience only feet away from the ‘action’ Taylor explores female power as wrought via the bedroom, indeed she is rarely out of it in this kaleidoscoped version of the novel.
The novel takes itself rather seriously, but Alex Helfrecht’s stage version is refreshingly humorous, providing a delicious send up of the rampant drinking culture and promiscuity that the entourage perpetrate wherever they go. Red wine cascades down white shirt fronts in Rachel Noel’s thoughtful design which involves the suspension of full glasses of red wine from the ceiling.
The result is an almighty existential hangover. Brett’s conquest lands the trio in hot water, and the physical climax is delivered by Kev McCurdy in a fight whose tragic consequences transcend the physical.
An enjoyable and robust tribute to a classic 20th century novel.
Overall Verdict 7 /10