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Review: BRIDESHEAD REVISITED at Goodwood Theatre

Review: BRIDESHEAD REVISITED at Goodwood Theatre Reviewed by Barry Lenny, Saturday 18th November 2017.

Evelyn Waugh's 1945 novel, Brideshead Revisited: The Sacred and Profane Memories of Captain Charles Ryder, as adapted by Roger Parsley, is Independent Theatre's very stylish production to end their season this year. Whilst at Oxford, Waugh encountered an aristocratic family with a strong Catholic faith, among the numerous fashionable and aristocratic friends that he had, and this novel is inspired by that relationship. He converted to Catholicism in 1930. As always, director, Rob Croser, has assembled a fine cast, who create the many believable characters, and created an atmospheric production that captures the novel extremely well.

We begin, during the Second World War, with an army detachment arriving at its latest billet, where Captain Charles Ryder realises that it is Brideshead, a stately home he had visited many years before while at university in the 1920s. It brings memories flooding back of the family and, in particular, Lord Sebastian Flyte, a fellow Oxford student with whom he had fallen in love, and his eventual transference of his love to Sebastian's sister, Julia who, by that time, was unhappily married.

The novel is a tale told in the first person and so, naturally, vast swathes of the play are left to Will Cox, as Charles Ryder, to deliver as monologues. An Independent Theatre regular, Cox is no newcomer to playing demanding roles with enormous amounts of dialogue, so the part was in safe hands, with him.

Cox is, as usual, superb in the role, displaying Ryder's inner turmoil as Sebastian deteriorates, pulling away from him and leaving him helpless to save Sebastian from himself. Cox spans a vast emotional range in the role, tossed around by both Sebastian and Julia, as well as suffering the influence of their mother and absent father, and the religiously hard line eldest brother.

Sebastian Flyte is played by Ben Francis, in the difficult situation of having to portray a charming and charismatic, but paranoid and depressed drunkard, two seemingly incompatible attributes. He also has to establish a believable relationship with Aloysius, his teddy bear. Francis achieves all this and more, captivating in his interpretation of the character.

Madeleine Herd plays Julia Flyte, her characterisation neatly conveying subtle similarities with Julia's brother, Sebastian, essential to the attraction of Charles when his relationship with Sebastian has completely and irretrievably broken down, allowing the transference of his love, such as it is, to Julia. Herd crafts another in a series of marvellous characterisations for Independent.

David Roach, Lyn Wilson, Paul Reichstein, Brodie Watson-Victory, and Emily Stewart, play all of the numerous minor roles in the play. Roach demonstrates his versatility in taking on all of the mature male roles, delineating them with great clarity, and Wilson does the same for a range of women, from Nanny Hawkins to Cara, for whom the father has abandoned the family. Watson-Victory takes on the role, among others, of the older brother, Brideshead Flyte, presenting an unpleasant religious zealot. Stewart charms as the younger sister, Cordelia, who emerges as the only member of the family who appears worth saving, and Reichstein's portrayal of the flamboyant and often catty, Anthony Blanche, deserves special mention.

Images, appropriate to each of the many short scenes, are projected onto a large scrim, in front of which is a heavily raked stage and a couple of benches that make up the ret of the set design, lighting completing the visual impact.

In the end, it is Catholicism that brings the lost back into the fold which, in Waugh's day might have pleased readers but, now, seems terribly contrived, unrealistic, and even damned infuriating. That, though, is the novel, which has become the play, and we are all stuck with that, like it or not.

Be sure to catch this excellent production before it closes on Saturday 25th November.

Photography: Oliver Toth.Enter Your Article Text Here!

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