Book by David Wood, based on the novel by LP Hartley
Royal & Derngate Northampton, Derby Live and West Yorkshire Playhouse.
Royal & Derngate, Northampton
Review by John Johnson
The Go-Between, based on LP Hartley's haunting nove,l has collaboration running through its veins. The Royal & Derngate, Northampton has co-produced the show with The West Yorkshire Playhouse and Derby Live. The result is a charming slice of theatre.
The collaboration doesn't stop with the producers. Harnessing the skill of adapting novels for stage with David Wood is an inspired choice - the writer, who has delighted with various Roald Dahl adaptations (amongst others), has created a script containing characters with real depth.
Perfect Pitch - a company who bring together British writers and composers to create new and original musicals - has won with The Go-Between, no doubt. It was a real delight to see and hear new writing.
On the whole, the music is delightful - 'butterfly' and 'strange words' stood out. Perhaps the Les Misérables speak/sing 'book musical' element might have been drawn in slightly - there were places where it seemed the spoken word might have worked better than singing the line.
The set was beautifully constructed with the period conveyed so effectively by the costumes and set design. A slightly muted use of colour gave the dream-like flashback quality as did the fact that the set slightly lent to one side - suggesting that Leo's look back at his life was slightly skewed with the affect of memory.
Royal & Derngate, Northampton have a recent tradition of brilliant design - particularly in their in-house work and should be congratulated for another success here. It is the detail in the design that adds to the quality of the performance. An example here is the tufted, burnt summer grass that littered the stage to suggest that long hot summer in the Norfolk of Leo's childhood.
Design was perhaps most beautifully captured with the opening. As Leo opened his book, characters sprang from the different exits to bring the pages open and the memories to life. It was an uplifting opening - perhaps the best that I have seen for a long time.
It is obvious that Director Roger Haines considered movement when producing The Go-Between. The Cricket Match stands out as a well crafted ensemble piece, as did the young Leo climbing over the bodies simply representing the obstacles on his way to the farm.
The production is not perfect by any means - the story itself almost seems to run out of steam, particularly in the second act. The ending felt a little rushed in terms of the text.
However, the collaboration alluded to is too strong to ignore. The cast oozes quality, aided by two convincing performances by the young Leo and Marcus (Guy Amos and Adam Bradbury in this performance). James Staddon as Colston leads the performance with focus - his performance of 'Butterfly' stood out in particular.
So what next for this production? Did the audience contain anyone willing to take the show on somewhere else? I left the Theatre hoping that this production is picked up for a London run, or regional tour. The Go-Between certainly deserves it.