The Count of Monte Cristo, West Yorkshire Playhouse, Leeds
It's no mean feat to reduce a 1,200-page book with a huge number of characters to a three-hour play featuring just six actors. But that is what adapter Joel Horwood and director Alan Lane have done with Alexandre Dumas's great adventure story The Count of Monte Cristo. The plot is condensed and simplified and given a thoroughly modern gloss.
But, though engaging and amusing, it's a complicated narrative to follow, especially after the daringly long-drawn-out years spent in the company of Edmund Dantes and Abbé Faria during their incarceration in Château d'If. Lots of dancing, a bit of impromptu-style singing and splashes of swashbuckling fun don't make up for the somewhat superficial slant this economy version has been forced to adopt.
Not for the West Yorkshire Playhouse the generous production values of the two-nighter version presented by Manchester's Royal Exchange Theatre in the 1990s. Instead, as the tale unfolds, the cast improvise on Barney George's workshop-type set with what might be flotsam and jetsam washed up on the Marseille coast and costumes that have the look of Granny's dressing-up box.
The second half has nothing like the theatrical tension of the first. Too much is crammed in, so that the importance of many characters is not immediately obvious. It's hard to care about the fate of these individuals whose stories overlap significantly, and whose quick costume-switching, moustache-swapping identities merge into a sequence of cartoon-like characters. Overhead, tabloid-style headlines keep us in the picture, "Crikey Cristo! Danglars girl to marry dodgy Prince", while the transformation of the younger characters into "woohy" party-goers is fun. But though Daniel Rigby is a credible Edmond Dantes, and though the cast gives its all, it's a struggle to feel moved by the bigger issues of Dumas's novel: hope, justice, vengeance, mercy, forgiveness and death.
To 15 May (0113 213 7700)
Arts & Ents blogs
Owen Howells is a DJ/producer who grew up in Australia but was born in the UK. He came back to the U...
Fancy seeing a play about serial killers? How about inviting a funeral director into your home for a...
There are a good many moments in the second episode of this psychological thriller that deserve refl...
Coronation Street triumphs over EastEnders at British Soap Awards 2013
The Freemasons' Code: Dan Brown reveals the message that told him the door to the lodge is open
Archaeologists uncover nearly 5,000 cave paintings in Burgos, Mexico
Lord of the Sings: Sir Christopher Lee, 91, to release heavy metal album
Film review: The Hangover Part III (15)
- 1 Pope Francis: Being an atheist is alright as long as you do good
- 2 Man and woman arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to murder victim of Woolwich machete attack, named as Drummer Lee Rigby
- 3 'Sickening, deluded and unforgivable': Horrific attack brings terror to London’s streets
- 4 Archaeologists uncover nearly 5,000 cave paintings in Burgos, Mexico
- 5 Woolwich attack: The EDL will seek to exploit this evil crime for their own evil ends
BMF is the UK’s biggest and best loved outdoor fitness classes
Find out what The Independent's resident travel expert has to say about one of the most beautiful small cities in the world
Nook is donating eReaders to volunteers at high-need schools and participating in exclusive events throughout the campaign.
Get the latest on The Evening Standard's campaign to get London's children reading.
Win anything from gadgets to five-star holidays on our competitions and offers page.