Sunday, February 9, 2014


Adaptation by Terence Rattigan and John Gielgud
Directed by Adam Spreadbury-Maher
Queanbeyan City Council at the Q, Queanbeyan
5 - 16 February 2014

Review by Len Power 5 February 2014

Charles Dickens’ ‘A Tale Of Two Cities’ has been one of his most popular novels since its first publication in 1859.  Set against the French Revolution, it’s a terrific romantic thriller with great characters and a clever and moving ending.  Its universal themes of love, honour and sacrifice still speak to us today.  During the twentieth century there have been numerous movies, TV adaptations and stage productions based on the novel.

One script for a stage production, adapted by John Gielgud and Terence Rattigan during the 1930s, didn’t make it to the stage at the time and languished unproduced for many years.  It’s this script which has been dusted off and edited by director, Adam Spreadbury-Maher for the current production at the Q in Queanbeyan.  This version focusses on just the incidents of the novel involving the main English and French characters.  The large crowd set pieces such as the storming of the Bastille and the French courtroom sequence detailed in the novel are only spoken of in passing.  The production has nine actors, most of whom play more than one role, but it’s not like the recent ‘The 39 Steps’ or ‘Brief Encounter’ where the cast played a bewildering number of parts.  The play is also performed in modern dress with accompanying popular music.  The dialogue delivery also varies between classic and current English utilizing various accents but this isn’t an updating of the play to modern day.  I know it sounds strange, but it all works beautifully.

Adam Spreadbury-Maher’s production excites and stimulates your imagination.  On a dominating white tower of a set expertly designed by Brian Sudding and wonderfully lit by Hamish McConchie, it’s fascinating and fun to watch how certain set pieces from the novel are staged.  Everyone in the cast gives an effective performance and I wish I could mention everyone individually.  Peter Dark is especially moving as the elderly banker, Jarvis Lorry, and very funny as the senile old Judge.  The normally glamorous Barbara Denham shines as the plain and fussy old Miss Pross and Hannah Ley gives a delightful cameo as Tellson’s Bank Clerk.  Calen Robinson, seen often around town in musicals, but here in his first major lead role in a play, gives a strong and moving performance as the depressive Sydney Carton and is chilling as the appalling Marquis de St.Everemonde.

The modern costume design by Miriam Miley-Read suits the characters perfectly and the sound design by James McPherson adds some great atmospheric touches.  If you know your music, there’s a clever link between the pieces played during the show and the age of the character, Sydney Carton.

This production works on two levels.  If you want theatre that engages your imagination thoroughly or if you just want to watch a great adaptation of a classic story, you can’t go wrong with this one.

Originally broadcast on Artsound FM 92.7 ‘Dress Circle’ program on Sunday 9 February 2014