Gabriela Preissová, adapted by Timberlake Wertenbaker
New Perspectives Theatre Company
Arcola Theatre

Publicity photo@ Paola Dionisotti

This adaptation of Její pastorkyna (Her Stepdaughter) may appear a simple story about how fickle love is and how attraction does not always lead to a long lasting relationship, but it is more then that: it is about betrayal, and how we are often betrayed by those who love us dearly. This simplicity was often predictable, but the play is directed with a clear vision and performed with a paramount cast. The stage design (by Louis Price) echoes the minimalism of the direction as well as the story and heightens the anticipation of a dark secret lurking in the woods, or should I say, behind the chains

Jenufa (Jodie McNee) never quite gets out of her stepmother's shadow (Kostelnichka, played with authority by Paola Dionisotti). Jenufa is painted as the respectable girl and the apple of Kostelnichka's eye but she is at the mercy of either her lover (Steva, played by the dashing Ben Mansfield) or her lover's rival (Latsa, played with constant passion by Oscar Pearce). One impregnates Jenufa, the other slashes her face, yet Jenufa seems passive to her predicament - almost as though she deserved it. I wanted to feel sorry or at least empathic towards Jenufa, but I was not convinced by Jenufa's godly ability to forgive both men for what they had done.

Religious guilt was a constant overtone within Jenufa and the play seems to imply that only marriage will be a single women's salvation. It made me question my own cultural background (Greek Cypriot) and I found that things, unfortunately, have not really changed enough. Single daughters are still an embarrassment and pride is still the Achilles Heel for parents or, in the case of Jenufa, step-parents .

Would I recommend Jenufa to my friend's ? Yes, because the play is engaging, regardless of the exposition. Would I take my parents to see it? Yes, because my parents would be able to identify with both the small village community and the social pressures embedded within that community and, through identifying, they would enjoy it. Did I enjoy it? Yes, apart from the closing scene where Jenufa explains how she will be a good and loyal wife, regardless of the fact that she does not love her husband-to-be, which just seemed a bit contrived to me.

Reviewer: Lennie Varvarides

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