Thursday 5 December 2019

THEATRE REVIEW: The Mourning Bride - Hope Street Theatre, Liverpool.

Hope Street has a special place in my heart as I appeared in the very first play to be staged here in November 2018, so it's always a joy to come back and watch other shows at this excellent, flexible venue.

The Mourning Bride is a modern adaptation by Marjorie H Morgan of Christopher Marlowe's Edward II but transplanted into 21st Century Liverpool, focusing on the shenanigans at a large high street business. All the power is now in the hands of women. The play opens with Gumar (Kel Nkondock) on a bed set upstage; the 'bed' itself is made up from tables pushed together and covered with a sheet. The only other furniture was a small table on one side and an armchair on the other side.

Bella (Alice Laybourne), the jealous wife of Eddie (more of her later) and her cohorts, power hungry Morgan (Shannon Power) and secretary Laurel (Amy Stout) enter onto the stage and they are deep in discussion. The end of the story is actually played out first and Eddie (Rachel Howard) appears for the first time. Morgan will do anything to gain favour, Laurel is unsure but nevertheless wants to prove herself and eventually goes along with the dastardly plan; she is however conflicted by her loyalty to Eddie.

The tables which had constituted the bed were cleverly rearranged to turn them into the company boardroom. The action switches back to the beginning when Eddie, now head of the company after her father's death, lets her new found position go to her head and makes it quite clear that she is the boss now. She brings Gumar back into the fold and on to the company's board, much to the chagrin of Bella and the others.

Worse still for Bella is that she has been replaced in Eddie's affections by Gumar; in fact, we see Eddie and Gumar romp in bed as Bella bemoans her situation and speaks directly to the audience about her plight; her monologue was delivered strongly and believably, thus eliciting the audience's sympathies, and was for me, the highlight of the evening. Hence the title of the piece also became clear, it being based on the poem written by William Congreve, with one of the most famous lines ever penned: “Heaven has no rage like love to hatred burned, nor hell a fury like a woman scorned.”

All 5 actors worked well together as a team and were very much 'on point' character wise. The modernisation of the story was well constructed and furthermore, the technical aspects went smoothly. As an audience member, I felt drawn in and wished to learn much more about each person and what really made them tick. However, this proved impossible because of the length of the piece (45 minutes) and is in fact my only criticism. I had heard on the grapevine that it was just a single act play, which is fine, but it ended somewhat abruptly, leaving me exasperated and a little short-changed. 

Tonight was the last performance for now. I don't know if the writer has plans to extend the play but there appeared to be plenty of room for embellishing the story.

Thanks to the staff at Hope Street for their hospitality and welcome and congratulations to the cast, crew and writer.

Reviewer - David Swift
on - 3/12/19

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