“Sang et nerfs/Sang et nerfs” sing the excellent chorus at the start of this visceral, darkly imaginative musical version of Emile Zola's 1867 novel in which a torrid, adulterous affair leads to murder followed by the waking nightmare of mutual disgust.
“I simply carried out on two living bodies the same examination that surgeons perform on corpses,” explained Zola. It's hard for a stage adaptation to convey how intensely the story operates on the level of interior physiology.
But the sense that it's at once a moral thriller and a kind of animal experiment comes through powerfully in Nona Shepphard's astute non-naturalistic reworking, while Craig Adams's complex, eloquent score pulls you in with the bold unpredictability of its questing melodic lines and twisted harmonic textures.
On designer Laura Cordery's suitably oppressive evocation of the dusty Parisian haberdasher's shop, the piece is performed with flair and fierce commitment by a company that includes Julie Atherton and Ben Lewis as the homicidal lovers, whose situation harks back to Macbeth and foreshadows The Postman Always Rings Twice, and Tara Hugo outstandingly good as the paralysed old aunt who begins and ends the show murdering her son's murderers again and again with her eyes.
To 19 April; 0844 847 1652