Tuesday, 14 November 2017

Review Jamaica Inn

Peter Barker is spirited away to 19th century Cornwall  in an enjoyable if flawed adaptation of a classic romantic thriller.

Jamaica Inn
by Daphne du Maurier
Adapted for the stage by Lisa Evans

The Beasts Of Bodmin

A young woman comes to live at an isolated inn in the midst of the Cornish moors with her uncle and aunt, her only surviving family.

But mystery swirls around Jamaica Inn like the howling winds on the moor -  just how does the hostelry, which seems to do little business, make money?

This drama is adapted from Daphne du Maurier's edgy gothic thriller, written in the 1930s but set in the first half of the 19th century.

Jamaica Inn was famously made into an Alfred Hitchcock movie. This adaptation by playwright Lisa Evans comes across as a rollicking tale, a kind of Poldark without the pectorals, played very broadly by a cast of eight directed by Anastasia Revi.

It soon becomes clear the inn is the haunt of murderous smugglers and shipwreckers who lure vessels to their doom onto the rocky shoreline.

At the beginning of the production, the dialogue teeters perilously on the edge of parody. However it settles down into an enjoyable 90 minutes, even if some of the action and script occasionally is not as clear as it could be.

Kimberley Jarvis is a spirited, red haired Mary facing villainy on all sides. As her bruiser of an uncle, Toby Wynn Davies makes a suitably menacing adversary, brandishing pistols and ale with equal relish.

No bodice ripper would of course be complete without some devil-may-care love interest. Here it takes the shape of Jem, her uncle's younger brother nicely played by Samuel Lawrence, who may or may not be on the dark side with his brother.

The design by Maira Vazeou, with Ben Jacobs's lighting, is extremely effective. Using dry ice, horse tackle, ropes and sacks hanging from the ceiling,  they conjure up  the inn and stables, the Cornish shoreline and the moor and the characters sashay around in some splendid costumes.

Several songs are scattered throughout the play and  drive forward the plot. However this can also be at times a weakness as the actors are clearly not trained singers.

There are also moments when both the script and accents of the actors err on the side of caricature. But it's played with such pace that you can just about ignore that and the creaking plot clichés.

For an entertaining hour and a half performed by the cast at a steady gallop under Revi’s direction. it's a solid amber light.

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