‘Trite themes explored with flat dialogue’: KISS OF THE SPIDER WOMAN – Menier Chocolate Factory ★

In London theatre, Opinion, Plays, Reviews, Ticket recommendations by Libby PurvesLeave a Comment

Menier Chocolate Factory, London – until 5 May 2018
Guest reviewer: Luke Jones

Two prisoners are locked in an Argentinian cell. Hungry, tired, nauseous, bored out of their minds… this critic jots down a handy metaphor for the whole evening. Kiss of the Spider Woman has had many lives (a novel, a play, a film) but one wonders how it passed the high bar of the Menier for another outing.

Sat in this dark, muddy cell is one man jailed for his gay life and another for his political life. Brightly drawn for us are chalk and cheese; gay and straight. This play wants to discuss masculinity… so two cartoon men have been wheeled in to discuss it for an hour and half. Laurie Sansom’s panto direction doesn’t help.

This adaptation (by José Rivera and Allan Baker) is a difficult watch; in that it’s hard to concentrate on trite themes being explored with flat dialogue. It is a rambling sentence with no chance of bail or an interval. The plot, despite a twist, is loose and fails to grip and a suddenly blossoming romance fails to convince.

Someone frequently making reference to “the resistance” and how they love it, believe in it and miss it isn’t dramatic. It’s a classic failing of show me, don’t tell me. It was one of those theatrical evenings where, out of desperate boredom, I lost myself so deeply in my own thoughts and mental wanderings I was almost entertained.

Both Sam Barnett and Declan Bennett are fine actors, but their camp and macho double act here felt more at home in unfunny sketch comedy. Some cheap gags landed with those around me, but for the most part it just felt like they were both just furiously punching flat lines hoping for a bit of life.

The only reprieve and the only place these broad voices, dancing expressions and loud gestures made sense, were Barnett’s character’s monologue retellings of his favourite romantic, melodramatic films.

Jon Bausor’s wonderfully dank cell comes alive with some really impressive projections by Andrzej Goulding. Silhouetted figures from the tales come alive on the wall, dancing around the bricks and across the cell doors. But pretty projections can’t raise this wreck.

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Libby Purves
Libby Purves was theatre critic for The Times from 2010 to 2013. Determined to continue her theatre commentary after losing that job, she set up her own site www.theatrecat.com in October 2013. She personally reviews all major London openings, usually with on-the-night publication, and also gives voice to a new generation of critics with occasional guest 'theatrekittens'. In addition to her theatre writing and myriad other credits, Libby has been a presenter on BBC Radio 4’s Midweek for over 30 years. She is also the author of a dozen novels, and numerous non-fiction titles. In 1999, Libby was appointed an OBE for services to journalism.
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Libby Purves on RssLibby Purves on Twitter
Libby Purves
Libby Purves was theatre critic for The Times from 2010 to 2013. Determined to continue her theatre commentary after losing that job, she set up her own site www.theatrecat.com in October 2013. She personally reviews all major London openings, usually with on-the-night publication, and also gives voice to a new generation of critics with occasional guest 'theatrekittens'. In addition to her theatre writing and myriad other credits, Libby has been a presenter on BBC Radio 4’s Midweek for over 30 years. She is also the author of a dozen novels, and numerous non-fiction titles. In 1999, Libby was appointed an OBE for services to journalism.

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