The Graduate

Malvern Theatres


The Graduate was an iconic film from 1967 starring Dustin Hoffman and many who remember that will throng to see this production.

The film, based on Charles Webb’s 1963 novel, centres on a bright and privileged young man called Ben who has just graduated with honours from university, received many accolades for various activities and sports during his academic years, but who finishes that phase of his life profoundly disillusioned and devoid of meaning, purpose and direction.

His parents cannot understand him, as they are materially comfortable and able to launch him into a successful career.

However, he has no motivation whatsoever. In a society which is materialistic but devoid of any moral or spiritual framework, he despises the empty traditions of his parents and their generation, he feels empty, depressed and lonely. He wants ‘something else’!

Travelling and meeting real people do not satisfy his need: he has ‘this feeling of grotesqueness’. In this state of mind he is susceptible to the allurements of the middle-aged wife of his parents’ best friends.

Mrs Robinson is the victim of a loveless and sexless marriage and has been driven to alcohol before deciding to seduce Benjamin to alleviate her depression. The invitation to unzip her dress and watch her undress in front of him begins an affair. It becomes a temporary distraction for Ben who actually ends up feeling used, and finding himself more attracted to a relationship with Mrs Robinson’s daughter.

The discovery and outworking of this series of events result in an overriding sense of lostness and alienation.

‘My life is bullshit!’ he declares. But the tone of this production is light and comic rather than tragic. There are many amusing and even hilarious moments and remarks despite the pathetic states of mind of the main characters. We are never allowed to feel so sorry for them or engaged in their feelings as to invite real pathos. Yet they are profoundly pitiable.

This production is very well directed and performed. Ben is played by Jack Monaghan and he achieves an excellent balance between the lostness and alienation on the one hand, and the obstinate determination not to conform or be controlled by the older generation. His comic timing is naturally effective.

Catherine McCormack presents us with the alcoholic, seductive and at times quite vicious Mrs Robinson. Emma Curtis plays her daughter Elaine and is particularly effective in the second act, moving from naivety and relative innocence to disillusionment, cynicism and rebellion.

The design for this show is likewise effective. The use of the curtains, screens and projections gives a simplicity and modernity to the production, the props and furniture are minimal but effective. The lighting is very well managed to support the action and pinpoint our attention. Music is well used, though the nostalgic might miss the Paul Simon songs of the film.

This is an entertaining show, though it is a sad commentary on the alienation that so many experience still today in a society that has lost its historic moral and philosophical foundations. To 17-06-16.

Tim Crow


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