Thursday, 23 March 2017

THEATRE | MY BRILLIANT FRIEND AT ROSE THEATRE


Rose Theatre's production of My Brilliant Friend is the very first stage adaptation of Elena Ferrante's Neapolitan Novels. The original series is split into four books and so the story is condensed into a two part play, with each part running for 2.5 hours. I was lucky enough to be invited back to Rose Theatre to watch this and was properly interested in what it'd be like as I'd never experienced a play in two parts before, though I'd heard this is the same case with the insanely popular Harry Potter & The Cursed Child right now. The production started at 2:30pm on a Saturday and having most recently visited for The Wind In The Willows, the stage set is a far cry from what lingers in my memory: it's dark and bare, a fresh platform for a very intense next five hours.

My Brilliant Friend tells the story of the relationship between two girls, Lenù and Lila, and follows their lives for the duration of over 50 years, starting in Naples. Right off the bat, the two characters are as different as the sun and moon, with Lila coming across as the much more dominant one even though the entire story is narrated by Lenù and therefore told through her eyes. Despite this, they compliment each other like soulmates and formed what would become an unbreakable bond against all odds.

What stood out to me and what I loved most was how they executed this play. The set design, choreography and use of props combined were cleverly inventive, simple yet eerily effective. There was a scene where they replicated waves on a beach with the actors manually billowing plastic sheets and it looked absolutely beautiful. The two leads Niamh Cusack and Catherine McCormack were both absolute powerhouses as Lenù and Lila repectively and gave such intense, passionate and memorable performances. However, the amazing acting and set could not stop the play from feeling entirely too long for me. Maybe it's because I'm not used to sitting in a theatre for that length of time but even after the first interval, I was already starting to lose attention and then after more than an hour's break before part two, I wasn't feeling that urge to continue and discover what happens next. I may have just been having an off day though because honestly, I can't fault any aspect of the production itself. I did hear a couple of audience members voicing that it would've been better to further condense the story but then again if you feel like you wouldn't be able to sit for five hours, there's an option to watch parts one and two on different days.


My Brilliant Friend is a lengthy life story accurately filled with highs and lows that could rival even the most extreme rollercoaster. You'll be swept into it's powerful energetic storm and it will wreak havoc with your emotions. At the heart of it all though, is the remarkable, enduring friendship between two women. 

My Brilliant Friend - Parts 1 & 2 is at Rose Theatre Kingston until the 2nd of April. More info and tickets can be found here.

*Complimentary press tickets to watch this play were given to me courtesy of Rose Theatre but as always, all thoughts and opinions voiced are my own. 

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