NANCY NAPPER CANTER is let down by a distinctly un-talented production.
Queens’ Fitzpatrick Hall, 14-18th February, 7.45pm, £5-6
Directed by Craig Slade and Sarah McCann
Phyllis Nagy’s stage adaptation of The Talented Mr Ripley demands a lot of the lead actor. It calls for an ever-present Ripley who can communicate sensitivity and intelligence, but also desperation and amorality. A Ripley who must captivate and repel simultaneously.
So it was lucky that most of the evening’s talent came from Will Peck as the eponymous anti-hero. Peck was particularly deft at monologue. Holding the audience’s gaze with confidence and poise, he divulged Ripley’s psychopathic fantasies with impressive energy. His American accent was also consistently strong, unlike some of the cast.
But my enjoyment of the monologues was incomplete. Ripley’s soliloquies should have engrossed us because they provided an insight. It is through monologue that the psychopathic, sexually jealous killer cowering behind Ripley’s calm façade is revealed. In a performance that was too much psycho and not enough charmer, there wasn’t enough of a discrepancy between façade and interior. Though a talented actor himself, Peck was less good at acting the talented actor. This was symptomatic of a production that ultimately lacked subtlety.
The heavy-handedness caused some problems. A charmless Ripley left us uncertain why Rickie or Rickie’s parents found him so endearing, and why people believed his compulsive lies. The play’s pace was therefore uncomfortable, with friendships and tensions developing too quickly to be believable or engaging. The result was a lack of momentum that was enervating. In addition, we didn’t really need quite so many reminders of the importance of the coastal setting. The coastal backdrop and coastal sound effects were enough; having so many of Rickie’s coastal watercolours hanging from the ceiling seemed unnecessary.
The essential violence in the piece also often just felt inept. Ripley’s repeated kicking of Freddie Miles’ corpse tried but failed to shock. It was simply awkward for actors and audience alike.
Not that Peck was the only mitigating factor. Johnny Falconer was charismatic as the suspicious Freddie Miles, and Kesia Guillery was especially memorable when playing a drunken Marge. Sound effects and (strobe) lighting were both used to great effect. But, for a play about a slick killer, neither killer nor production seemed quite slick enough. In a week abounding with plays, it’s hard to recommend a thriller that, well, just didn’t thrill.