12 April 2006

Hilda by Marie NDiaye

in a new translation by Sarah Woods.

Mrs Lemarchand - Stella Gonnet
Franck - Bo Poraj
Corrine - Sarah Cattle

Directed by Rachel Kavanaugh
Designed by Peter McKintosh

as the Hampstead Theatre

A short but intense production about extreme loneliness breeding an inability to relate to any other soul but an aching desire to achieve the human contact that is seen in others. Extraordinary piece. It's a tough remit for Stella Gonnet but for someone of her experience and calibre it should not have been quite the challenge that she found it. There are a lot of intense lines delivered at great speed but the impact is lost on the several occassions when she fluffs them. Not just by stumbling but by actually delivering a line which clearly relates the opposite of what was intended and therefore cannot be recovered but needs to be repeated correctly. She may have been put off in the first 15 minutes but the very noisy and talkative exit of a member of the audience behind me but she never recovered. That said - when she was good, she was very good but the audience was always anxious to make sure she didn't mess up again.

All through this we had the beautifully considered Franck played by Bo Poraj. He was the baffle board of this constant onslaught and by some miracle managed to remain physically and mentally engaged throughout despite have very few lines and no great speeches. The production would not have survived without the quiet confidence that his presence gave the audience. Even when Franck is in pain and terribly distraught we are completely comfortable with this character, his reactions and his portrayal.

I'm at a loss to understand the casting of Sarah Cattle. She plays Franck's sister in law and eventually lives with him but if she is supposed to represent something similar to Franck's wife Hilda (which I doubt) she creates the opposite image so is one supposed to presume that Franck sought solace in a contradictory soul?

Such an interesting piece and perhaps a little more rehearsal would iron out the falters for Ms Gonnet. It may have just been a bad night and it was very early in the run.