‘Captain Corelli’s Mandolin’ review

Theatre, Drama
3 out of 5 stars
 (© Marc Brenner)
© Marc Brenner Alex Mugnaioni as Captain Corelli & Madison Clare as Pelagia
 (© Marc Brenner)
© Marc Brenner Alex Mugnaioni as Captain Corelli & Elizabeth Mary Williams as Psipsina
 (© Marc Brenner)
© Marc Brenner Elizabeth Mary Williams as Psipsina & Madison Clare as Pelagia
 (© Marc Brenner)
© Marc Brenner Alex Mugnaioni as Captain Corelli 
 (© Marc Brenner)
© Marc Brenner Ashley Gayle as Mandras & Madison Clare as Pelagia
 (© Marc Brenner)
© Marc Brenner Ashley Gayle as Mandras
 (© Marc Brenner)
© Marc Brenner Joseph Long as Dr Iannis, Madison Clare as Pelagia & Luisa Guerreiro as Goat

Time Out says

3 out of 5 stars

This stage adaptation of Louis de Bernières’s 1994 novel is vivid and poignant

This review is from the Rose Theatre Kingston. ‘Captain Corelli’s Mandolin’ transfers to the Harold Pinter Theatre.

I am from the ‘90s and in the ‘90s I loved Louis de Bernières’s hyper-vivid, bittersweet monster of a breakthrough novel ‘Captain Corelli’s Mandolin’. It has probably drifted out of fashion a bit since - maybe because of the scale of its success, maybe because of the slightly rubbishy Nick Cage film, maybe because De Bernières has struggled to match its impact since.

In any case it is 2019 and here finally is a stage version - by Rona Munro - and it’s good. More than good: Melly Still’s production is heartfelt, inventive, kinetic and requisitely whimsical. For starters, two members of the cast spend the bulk of their night respectively playing a goat (Luisa Guerreiro) and a pine marten (Elizabeth Mary Williams). They belong to Iannis, a philosophy-spouting Greek doctor living on the island of Cephalonia during WW2, alongside his daughter Pelagia (Madison Clare). Far too much happens to allow for a realist set, but Mayou Trikerioti’s abstract one is beautiful, two enormous sheets of crumpled metal hanging high in the rafters, looking at once like a map of the island and an impression of the sea around it, shifting from silver to bronze under Malcolm Rippeth’s lights.

Ambitiously, Munro takes a stab at compressing the entire hefty book into a relatively svelte two-and-a-half-hours. Certainly anyone scarred by the deviations of the film will appreciate the fidelity. But really the story is too big to contain here, and the character who really suffers is the eponymous officer and musical prodigy. Part of the occupying Italian forces on the island, Alex Mugnaioni’s Corelli doesn’t even appear as a character until the end of the first half. Consequently, his relationship with Pelagia doesn’t have anything like the weight it does in the book - it’s just one of many, many incidents, and it robs the story of a massive amount of its weight and poignancy.

Still, as efforts go this is beyond valiant and if doesn’t have the weight of the book, it’s still a rich and ambitious piece of theatre.


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