By Joseph Kerr
Tuesday, October 23, 2012
THE Graduate played at the Barn Theatre in Welwyn Garden City earlier this month. Joseph Kerr reviews the stage version of the famous 1960s film.
THE 1967 film The Graduate made such a big impression on me when I first saw it that I approached the stage adaptation at the Barn with a certain wariness.
Is it really possible to recreate as live theatre the extraordinary impact that the film made on us?
The answer is probably no, but it’s the wrong question.
For a start, we’re all a lot older than we were then, and perhaps less easily shaken by the shock of the new.
But, more importantly, the adapter Terry Johnson has wisely gone back to Charles Webb’s original novel for his inspiration, rather than attempt to slavishly follow in the footsteps of the movie, though there are a few nods to the film’s more striking images.
The result is a subtly different slant on events, and the inclusion of some episodes that film director Mike Nichols left on the cutting room floor.
The success of this production was largely due to a strong cast, mostly Barn stalwarts, with the addition of a couple of relative newcomers.
Cindy Lawford, making her debut on the Barn stage, wasn’t perhaps quite such a stainless steel bitch as Ann Bancroft, for there were times when one felt almost sorry for her, but she gave an assured and rounded performance.
Tallan Cameron, as Ben, gave what was perhaps his best performance at the Barn so far.
I thought the strongest performance was by Louise Devlin as Elaine, making the most of a role that is on the page rather less interesting than the other two main characters.
Of the supporting cast, I ought to make special mention of Ian Colpitts as an enraged and bewildered Mr Robinson, and Keith Thompson’s sterling work as a range of minions, ranging from the urbane to the positively sleazy.
To my inexpert ears the American accents were all pretty authentic, as they should have been given the presence of three American actors in the cast.
In sum, this was an engrossing evening’s theatre that seemed as fresh 45 years on as the original did in the 60s.
But perhaps slightly less shocking, despite the brief moment of female nudity that made such a stir when the play first opened in the West End.