Harold Pinter Theatre, London – until 31 August 2019
It seems appropriate that Captain Corelli’s Mandolin, the 1990s beach novel that launched a hundred thousand package holidays to Kefalonia should itself be staged in a lightly air-conditioned theatre that’s currently hotter than Greece.
In the book, the romance between Antonio Corelli – an Italian soldier with a stringed instrument and the soul of a poet – is billeted on the Greek island during wartime occupation and wins the heart of his reluctant host’s daughter. They survive famine, fighting, German brutality and Greek stoicism – but their story is intertwined with the actions and the horror of war.
On stage, adaptor Rona Munro and imaginative director Melly Still have separated the themes in to war and if not peace then at least romance, either side of the interval. So the first half is a bit confusing and cacophonous with a lot of the ensemble throwing themselves dramatically onto their foam-filled backpacks emulating shot troops.
You might be engrossed, you might think it gimmicky and maybe question whether something quite so improvisation-workshopped is smart enough for the West End. Two human actors play adopted animals – a pine marten and observant goat. Luisa Guerriero’s goat is a marvellous study in animal behaviour, twitching and twerking to punctuate the action.
Spoiler: the soldiers have a barbecue.
War continues to overshadow the romance, but you’re just not as drawn into it as you would be with the book on your sun lounger. The ensemble sing a bit of Verdi to accompany Corelli’s mandolin plucking which pleases the ears, but may not also pluck at your heart strings.
It’s like baklava. Sweet, but also a bit too sticky.
until 31 AugustL