Reviewed by Dave Smith
Adelaide Repertory made a very good fist of the Declan Donnellan stage adaptation of Thackeray’s sprawling satirical novel. They adopted the useful style of having all seven players on stage throughout the performance, retreating to the sides and back whenever they weren’t directly in the action.
In this way Director Brian Knott achieved a unity, fluency and pace that the cast sustained through most of the action. Things only noticeably slowed towards the end of Act 1. The seven actors played numerous roles, as well as sharing the narration and Thackeray’s commentary, sometimes even on their own character’s behaviour and motives. Because the convention was soundly established early, the transitions were fluent and the characters credible.
The casting was generally even. Belinda Knott shone as the central figure, Becky Sharp. She precisely captured her self-seeking and manipulative nature. Mason Wills, especially as the rather stuffy George Osborne, was convincingly ramrod-straight, while James Whitrow did very well to differentiate his many roles, showing subtle expression and keen timing. He was at his best as Dobbin. Alex King as Rawdon and Lindy LeCornu were also most convincing in their several roles. Keith Manson was suitably odious as Joseph, although his declamatory style and sense of dramatic timing occasionally let him down. Abi Devries was a charming and convincingly naïve Amelia, providing the necessary clear contrast with Becky.
The company brought a versatile and skilfully nuanced production to the stage. They definitely deserved a bigger audience than attended on opening night.