“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair…”
Charles Dickens’s novel “A Tale of Two Cities” is an epic 45 chapters crossing two great cities, London and Paris, before and during the 1789 French Revolution. It’s been adapted for stage by a few, including the late Terence Rattigan (British dramatist) and John Gielgud (British actor, director and producer). The Rattigan/Gielgud adaptation appeared as a radio play in 1950. However, it was NEVER produced and put on the stage. Until now….and I went to see it with my friend Alice on Sunday.
The ultra brave King’s Head Theatre led by artistic director Adam Spreadbury-Mayer has taken it on. Famous for putting on new work in unusual places, “A Tale of Two Cities” is being performed at this London fringe theatre with a cast of only eight actors on a simple stage and with a handful of props.
With Syria and Egypt in civil crisis and issues of equality high on the world agenda “A Tale of Two Cities” tells a current tale politically. It also gives us romance. In the depths of despair, Sydney Carton (the hero of of the play) sacrifices his own life to give hope to the woman he loves. This is a story documenting a civil war but it teaches us about the power of love. Love can turn the weakest of us into a hero. The play’s cast is fantastic. Each actor develops multiple personalities and takes on a few characters. They manipulate voice and physicality and successfully capture the grandeur of this Dickens novel. What I especially love about this production is the modern costume and music (Nirvana and Hendrix included). These are the kinds of touches that help make theatre accessible.
Also this week on the theme of multi-personalities, I have been catching-up with Orphan Black on BBC Three. Tatiana Maslany plays Sarah, who discovers she is a clone. Tatiana then plays all her other clone personalities! I’m particularly interested in Tatiana’s work on this because of her dance background, which she uses to help her with her character development. A really interesting read about it here.
As ever, so much happens in our fair city, our fair country – be a hero and check out Rattigan and Gielgud’s “A Tale of Two Cities” at the King’s Head for yourself – it’s on until 19th October – a world premiere, how can you miss it?!