Lady Chatterley is a kit-off fest at Cambridge Arts Theatre
- Credit: Photo by Mark Douet
After nearly 90 years, is Lady Chatterley’s Lover still naughty? This adaptation of D.H. Lawrence’s notorious novel at the Arts Theatre, is a veritable kit-off fest as the posh Lady Chatterley gets on down with the earthy gamekeeper Mellors. She does this many many times – one reason why the play is a very long one, almost three hours.
The story as filleted by writer and director Philip Breen, revolves around the young Connie Chatterley, bored and frustrated by living with her tetchy husband the wealthy mine-owning Sir Clifford. He has been paralysed by action in World War One and is trying, unsuccessfully to become a playwright. Connie’s sexual frustrations boil over when she meets the new young gamekeeper, the macho working-class Mellors. It’s lust at first sight and it’s not long before shirts, drawers and everything else is removed and the simulated bonking begins.
It would be lovely to say that the lengthy drama was as exciting as Lady C’s birthday-suited liaisons in the woods with her lower class lover. Though the production has many strong points, it has some serious flaws.
Besides the over-leisurely pace, the design and set is a major disappointment: black drapes and a grey curtain, a pointless on-stage piano cast members seem to wander on and off at will and the lighting design seems remarkably unambitious. There is little to suggest the two contrasting worlds between haves and have-nots. Bitty, super-short scenes, ungainly props shifting and colourless design all serve to give the production a dull and unfocused look.
The redeeming feature here is the relationship between Lady C, subtly played by Hedydd Dylan and the gamekeeper, an impressive Jonah Russell. They capture the needy relationship as it grows from erotic to tender love.
Though Breen takes chunks out of D H’s philosophical passages thus making the dialogue often sound clunky, the actors build real sexual chemistry out of what begins as awkward, almost teenage, fumbling. The best scene is that resembling a kind of Garden of Eden with a flower-bedecked stage and little floral tributes placed in all sorts of intimate spots on the naked couple. It’s both beautiful, and yes, still rather naughty.