The production runs from 19th-28th January , and my ticket was for last night’s performance. Reading is about 75 miles from here, so it was quite a trek. I had an uneventful drive down except for the bit in Reading where Tim, the disembodied voice who lives in my SatNav, got very upset with me for refusing to go down a bus-lane, and then refused to speak to me for a bit after that, (“lost satellite signal” indeed!), but happily he relented in time to tell me how to find the side-street which the theatre is in.
Having done so, I had about an hour to spare, so I wandered down to the nearest pub where I was delighted to find not only the expected beer, but also a remarkably good burger (although either I mis-read the menu, or one lettuce leaf, wilted to a sad remnant of its real self, constitutes a salad these days). But the beer was good, and the pub was warm, and there was no piped music, no TV, and a shelf of books available.
The Progress Theatre is very small – it seats just under 100 people, and it appeared to be very nearly sold out. (I've no idea whether there are any tickets left for other performances - the theatre's own website is down for maintenace at present but the box office number is 0118 960 6060.
The production was, I thought, excellent. It was very faithful to the novel. (I think also to the TV show, especially with some of the visuals, but I have not watched that for a long time, so I may have missed some) There were some places where scenes were cut – (the Marquis de Carabas’s meeting with Lear, the ‘Angels over London’ exhibition and, to my regret, the Nice Cup of Tea element of the Black Friar’s Ordeal)
I enjoyed the various visual grace notes – in the Floating Market scenes the set included various coats of arms, relating to different characters or fiefdoms, some of which were immediately obvious (Hammersmith, Serpentine/Seven Sisters) others (Shepherds Bush, Earl’s Court) took me a little longer to work out. There was also very imaginative use of lighting and projections to help augment the sets – very effective, especially regarding Door’s ability to open doors, and the moves from London Above to London Below.
|Mr Croup and Mr Vandemar. (Photo from progresstheatre.co.uk)|
I also greatly enjoyed the way that the black humour of the original were retained. Well worth seeing, both for fans of Neil’s work, and for newcomers. I’m very glad I went.