Search This Blog

Wednesday, 21 October 2009

Theatre – Life Is A Dream – Donmar Warehouse

Star rating – 9/10

If you like your drama to be reminiscent of the classic tragedies and plots of ancient Greece or Shakespeare’s finest, then this is a treat not to be missed. I have to admit that I hadn’t heard of Spanish writer Pedro Calderón de la Barca before, to my shame, but I now know that he was one of Spain’s finest dramatists in the golden age of Spanish theatre in the seventeenth century. And , not being familiar with the original text, it is hard to say how true this version is to it, but the adaptation by Jonathan Mumby felt extremely relevant to today’s Donmar audience.

And in ‘Life Is a Dream’, he explores the conflict between free will and predestined fate. It tells the story of the Basilio, King of Poland who imprisons his son Segismundo like an animal in a tower from birth, in order to protect his reign and defy the predictions of astrologers who saw the boy taking his father's throne. After several years, the King has a change of heart and orders his son drugged and brought to his palace to test out his character. Segismund behaves so badly, however, that Basilio banishes him back to his prison. Waking up in the tower, the prince thinks that he never left his prison, that the entire experience was just a dream.

Dominic West, better know as heart throb cop Jimmy McNulty from ‘The Wire’, is simply excellent in the lead role of Segismundo. He rages and roars at the injustice of his situation. As well as the obvious tragic element, West’s character is also highly amusing as he comes to terms with experiences he has so far been denied all his life. The clown of the piece is played for laughs by Lloyd Hutchinson as the servant Clarion. Also impressive is David Horovitch as his jailer, and general for Basilio, Clotaldo.

The plot is complex, with another inter weaving story competing to be resolved alongside the fate of Segismundo. But it is expertly told, and genuinely thought provoking and uplifting. My only slight criticism would be that at times of high dramatic tension, the music seemed to intrude slightly when the action could have more than spoken for itself. But overall a fantastic play, a pleasing confirmation of the talents of Dominic West, and another winning production from the Donmar.

No comments:

Post a Comment