The Theatreguide.London Review
Captain Corelli's Mandolin
Harold Pinter Theatre Summer 2019
This adaptation by Rona
Munro of Louis De Bernieres's popular wartime romance novel faces and
doesn't fully conquer real difficulties in conversion from fiction to
While evocative staging
effects capture some of the book's
spirit, the sprawling plot seems overly artificial and manipulated
when condensed into two hours, and even major characters are barely
On a peaceful Greek
island in 1941 spirited and
ambitious Pelagia is engaged to a local fisherman when the Italians
invade and he goes off to war. Thought dead, he returns badly
wounded, only to depart again once well to fight with the Partisans.
Meanwhile the occupying
Italian army brings an ordinary soldier and
the music-loving Captain, both of whom fall in love with Pelagia, the
soldier gracefully retiring when it is clear that the officer's
gentleness and music have won her over.
When the Germans turn
the Italians both men are killed, just as the fisherman returns and
is also killed.
Three or four decades
later one of the trio proves to
be still alive and returns yet again to pick up where he left off.
between, the novel offers ruminations on history, tradition, love and
honour that can only be presented as awkwardly shoehorned-in passing
comments in the play.
Where the play is at its
best is in evoking the
sense of a peaceful and tradition-rich community surviving
disruption. Figures like the town doctor and a grieving old woman may
be a little too obviously half-symbolic archetypes, but in the
shorthand of drama they serve their function well.
Still makes bold and effective decisions like having actors play the
family goat and cat, communicating the human intimacy with the world
of nature, and delicately choreographed semi-dance sequences sustain
the atmosphere while indicating the passage of time.
But the coming
and going of the men becomes repetitive to the point of being almost
comic, as there are simply a few too many times someone thought dead
The fisherman is gone
for too much of the story for
his return to seem more than a plot contrivance, while Captain
Corelli is just too nice, too gentlemanly and too seductively
musical. The third man – the Italian soldier – is reduced to
hovering around the edges of the narrative, never fully integrated
into the world of the play.
And when the action
jumps to thirty or
forty years later, neither the woman nor the once-more-resurrected
man has visibly aged, and her reasonable annoyance at his keeping his
survival secret is too easily overcome.
Madison Clare makes
an attractively strong woman, while Alex Mugnaioni works hard to
communicate Corelli's charm. Joseph Long and Eva Polycarpou help
create and sustain the atmosphere of the island community, and Luisa
Guerreiro makes a droll and attitude-filled goat.
As is almost inevitable with novel adaptations to the stage, those who know the original will have the most successful experience, mentally and emotionally filling in the play's gaps. The rest will be too aware that they are watching a plot summary whose structure and internal rhythms don't translate comfortably to the stage.
Receive alerts every time we post a new review