Pearl of a good night out

AFTER the huge success of the book and film, it was inevitable that Girl with a Pearl Earring would make it on to the stage at some point. Tracy Chevalier s best selling novel was adapted for the big screen in 2003, and is now set to begin a run at London

AFTER the huge success of the book and film, it was inevitable that Girl with a Pearl Earring would make it on to the stage at some point.

Tracy Chevalier's best selling novel was adapted for the big screen in 2003, and is now set to begin a run at London's Haymarket Theatre later this month.

The cast have been warming up for the main event with a series of performances at the Cambridge Arts Theatre, meaning audiences in this area have had a chance to see the play before anyone else.

Set in seventeenth century Holland, the action takes place in the house of master painter Johannes Vermeer (Adrian Dunbar). When he hires a young serving girl Griet (Kimberley Nixon) to work in his house, it is not long before she becomes more than a servant, learning the art of painting by watching the master.


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Their relationship blossoms, and secretly Vermeer begins to paint her, making Griet both model and muse for his greatest masterpiece - Het Meisje met de Parel, or Girl With a Pearl Earring.

Vermeer also has his scheming mother-in-law Maria (Sara Kestelman), and drunken patron Mr Van Ruijven (Niall Buggy) to contend with, both of whom have their own plans for Griet.

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Nixon for the most part does a good job of reflecting the wide-eyed innocence of Griet.

There is certainly chemistry between her and Dunbar, whose performance as the brooding Vermeer is also excellent at times.

However, you don't really get a feel for the decline in the relationship between Vermeer and his pregnant wife Catherina (Lesley Vickerage), and some of the scenes lack cohesion as a result.

Kestelman brings good depth to the character of Maria, who goes against her better judgment to placate Van Ruijven and keep her family together, while villain of the piece Buggy steals the show, strutting around like the lord of the manor and delivering his lines with a perfect mixture of comedy and menace.

But Maggie Service, who plays servant Tanneke, appears to have got lost on her way to Albert Square and ended up in Holland by mistake, and her exaggerated cockney accent is not really in keeping with the rest of the production.

And, as Griet's love interest Pieter, Jonathan Bailey could do with adding a few more facial expressions to his repertoire.

However, this does not detract from the overall quality of the production, and the beautifully crafted sets, which revolved as the action moved around the Vermeer house, certainly added to the occasion.

The lighting was also excellent, and the use of "talking heads" to divide the scenes was well conceived and scripted.

Writer David Joss Stone has certainly captured the essence of the original, and the audience was enthralled throughout.

If this performance is anything to go by, Girl With a Pearl Earring should go down a storm in the West End.

MATTHEW GOODING

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