Tuesday, April 03, 2007

The David Glass production reviewed in The Guardian

Once read, never forgotten, Mervyn Peake's dark trilogy about the downfall of the ancient, inbred house of Gormenghast is one of those adolescent rites-of-passage works. It is impossible not to identify with the young Titus, 77th Earl of Groan and heir to Gormenghast, struggling against the machinations of Steerpike, the put-upon kitchen boy turned valet, whose rise up the greasy pole of power appears unstoppable.

David Glass' production sometimes suffers from as much misplaced ambition as Steerpike himself. But in transposing over 1,000 pages of novel into just over two and a half hours, it recognises that Gormenghast is as much a state a mind as an actual place. The stage is almost bare and, for successive scenes, the endless stone corridors of the castle are ingeniously created by handheld backdrops.
This is a production that captures the flavour of the novels, if not quite their nightmarish essence: Eric MacLennan's monstrous and murderous Swelter, the master cook, is a little too well-behaved to be really gruesome.

It seems the need to tell the story keeps getting in the way of Glass's desire to create startling visual images. When the two come together, it is magnificent: the discovery of the aunts' mummified bodies and the labyrinthine corridors are niftily done.

Until April 15. Box office: 020-7223 2223. Then touring.


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