Friday, November 11, 2011

'The Go-Between' by David Wood and Richard Taylor, based on the novel by L P Hartley

11 November 2011

"The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there". I had heard of ‘The Go-Between’ by L P Hartley but I haven’t read the book or seen the 1970 film adaptation by Harold Pinter and, before going to see the new stage version at the Royal & Derngate in Northampton last week, I didn’t really know what it was about. Published in 1953, the novel describes Leo Colston looking back, in 1950, to his childhood experiences as the house guest of a wealthy family in Norfolk in the summer of 1900. His boyhood role as ‘postman’, passing messages between two illicit lovers, leads to a devastating conclusion that affected him for the rest of his life. The stage version, by David Wood with music by Richard Taylor, turns the story into a serious musical, almost sung-through, reminding me of Sondheim and not far from contemporary opera. The production, directed by Roger Haines, was a collaboration between the Royal & Derngate, Derby Live and West Yorkshire Playhouse and it was excellent. The cast were all strong and the singing was very impressive but the show was stolen by the two local boys, Adam Bradbury as Marcus and particularly William Miles as Leo who was on stage almost constantly. The story was carefully and effectively told in a very theatrical style which left much to the imagination. I particularly enjoyed James Staddon as the older Leo, shadowing the actions of his younger self while watching from the back of the stage. The music was provided by an onstage grand piano played by Musical Director Jonathan Gill. It was an entertaining, moving and extremely high-quality evening in the theatre.

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