Captain Corelli's Mandolin, Norwich

JOHN LAWSON After a multi-million selling novel and a big-budget Hollywood movie, there is something rather refreshing about this stripped-down version of Louis de Bernieres' heartwarming story of love and heroism in second world war Kefalonia.

JOHN LAWSON

After a multi-million selling novel and a big-budget Hollywood movie, there is something rather refreshing about this stripped-down version of Louis de Bernieres' heartwarming story of love and heroism in second world war Kefalonia.

Creator/director Mike Maran tells the story, with the help of a handful of two-dimensional props, with atmospheric original music composed and played by virtuoso mandolin player Alison Stephen and flautist and pianist Anne Evans.

The simplicity of the colourful island coastal backdrop makes the contrast with a blood-spattered wall, the only “scene change” – after the eponymous captain's invading Italian army are executed by the Germans as traitors – even more stark.

Maran is a natural storyteller, at once funny, touching, dramatic. His timing is first class and the moments of absolute silence which fill the theatre in his carefully placed dramatic pauses are almost tangible.

It is a wonderfully intimate performance, so well suited to the cosy setting of the Maddermarket Theatre.

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The audience is drawn into the music-loving captain's world, as he falls in love with the daughter of the island's doctor – a girl previously betrothed to a fisherman now fighting for the partisans. Tragically, the illiterate fisherman cannot cope with her betrayal and kills himself – but she cannot help the pull of her heart.

After the captain is saved from execution by the heroic sacrifice of his friend, he is smuggled off the island promising to return after the war is over. But the lovers are destined not to find each other – or true happiness – for a generation.

Maran's adaptation has justifiably proved a smash wherever it has played and means I, for one, keenly await the arrival of his new show, Private Angelo, looking at another aspect of wartime courage, which comes to the Maddermarket on May 12.

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