Lady Chatterley and MellorsLady Chatterley’s Lover

Malvern Theatres

****

SIR CLIFFORD Chatterley returns from the First World War disabled and impotent. He can no longer meet all the needs of his young wife.

This sets up quite unbearable strains on their relationship and their sense of purpose and future in life.   

Hedydd Dylan  as Lady Chatterley and Jonah Russell as the gamekeeper Mellors

Lady Chatterley has become more a carer for her young aristocratic husband than a love mate.

It adds to the strain that her husband would like her to bear a child for him by having superficial sex with another man.

It is out of this profound sexual frustration and the lack of meaningful love between them that Lady Chatterley seeks a mate in the form of the gamekeeper on their estate, Mellors. Their relationship develops out of their physical frustration more than any friendship or romance.

These two individuals are lost souls in a fragmented and disintegrated world: the impact of a devastating war has undermined religious faith and traditional values for many, it left deep tensions between social classes and accelerated the aspirations of women in society and within marriage.

Lady Chatterley and Mellors are seeking some integration and fulfilment in their sexual passion, but it provides only passing and temporary relief rather than lasting satisfaction.

When their illicit relationship comes to the attention of the local villagers, they are confronted with social pressures that strain them to breaking point. It all ends in a torturous cry of despair.

 Mellors is leaving for Sheffield to undertake a new labouring job in the steel industry and Lady Chatterley is facing a bleak and despairing future though she is expecting his child. Her final cry – ‘Will you come back for me if I can’t bear it any more?’ epitomises the tragedy of this story.

DH Lawrence manages to address other themes than the role of sexual love in his novel. We see the arrogance of the upper and privileged classes and the exploitation of the workers. The liberation of women, the perceived restrictions of marriage and the overall angst of life are all presented through the tensions in the relationships in this play.

This dramatisation is brilliantly realised with a stylised and visually striking production. The early very short staccato scenes serve as a metaphor for the fragmentation of the world and have a sharp dramatic, impressionistic impact.

There is a coldness in the design as well as in the relationships fromLord Chatterley the outset. The home of the Chatterleys is like an icebox with all the furniture covered in white shrouds.

The use of lighting and the effective use of the gauze, the simple but effective deployment of a few items of furniture and props, all contribute to the dramatic and tense atmosphere that is sustained throughout almost the entire evening.

Eugene O’Hare as Sir Clifford Chatterley

The depiction of their sexual relationship and their frequent love-making is mostly very natural, but tortured and anguished.

Some might find the amount of nudity difficult but it serves to explore DH Lawrence’s sense of the importance of physicality and sexual love in the human desire for integration and fulfilment. They do achieve a degree of ‘tenderness’ at times, the original title for the novel, but it is always tinged with tension and angst.

The performances by the cast are very strong. Eugene O’Hare (Sir Clifford Chatterley) communicates powerfully the rage and frustration of the disabled veteran, the arrogance of the landowning aristocracy and their brutal lack of sympathy with his workers.

Hedydd Dylan (Lady Chatterley) communicates her frustration, her lostness and angst with great intensity and drives the relationship with Mellors from her position of social superiority. She has an excellent voice to invite our empathy.

Jonah Russell (Mellors) has the appropriate sullen but physical rawness to attract his mistress, but you never feel that he believes this relationship can be sustained in the context of a very conservative culture.

These three principals are supported by a strong ensemble team who all contribute to this stylised, cold and anguished production.

As with Strindberg’s Miss Julie, the frustrated and privileged woman luring the servant into a sexual relationship results in more tension and disconnection than she escapes. But we are left to feel deep empathy for her and her complete lostness and despair in DH Lawrence’s angry, unjust and painful world. Despite being somewhat over-long, it is a very gut-wrenching and sad story, performed with great passion and skill with a very powerful visual impact. To 05-11-16

Tim Crow

01-11-16 

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