Marrying the Mistress
Norwich Theatre Royal
>Norwich Theatre Royal
This is the first stage adaptation of any of Joanna Trollope's novels (which now number 13) and, all it all, it pretty much works.
American David Taylor has both adapted and directed this version, and while he struggles with rather clumsy stagecraft, it's all blackouts, moving sofas and 'pretend' phone conversations, he gets across Trollope's great insight into modern dilemmas.
Undoubtedly her novels, which sell by the bucketload, must be tricky to stage. They have several running themes throughout, each with its own characters who, in turn, have their own trials and tribulations. For it is this that fascinates Trollope - the tiny detail of human relationships, especially those that surround that most treasured institution, family life.
In Marrying the Mistress, Trollope turns received ideas on marital break-ups upside down. The husband who walks away (played with great authority by Jeremy Clyde) is portrayed as a gentle caring soul, the deserted wife (played by Polly Adams) is seen as a hectoring bully, while the mistress (played by Elizabeth Healey) is an educated, independent young woman rather than a gold-digger.
Yet Trollope delves deeper. The eldest son (played by Adam Lukis from television's Judge John Deed) struggles with his sense of duty and loyalty as his mother and his wife (played by Caroline Langrishe, who's also in Judge John Deed) vie for his attention.
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It's finally the teenage grandson (played by Mat Ruttle) who has to point out what's what and people begin to see where their priorities lie.
Norfolk is safe territory for Trollope as her novels reflect the Middle England lifestyle experienced by many in the county.
And for Trollope lovers, this play is a delightful treat - but you shouldn't compare it to her books, which are naturally much richer and ultimately more satisfying.
t The play runs until Saturday, February 11. Call 01603 630000 for more details or visit www.theatreroyalnorwich.co.uk