Lady Chatterley's Lover

D H Lawrence, adapted for the stage by Paul Hurt
Buxton Opera House and touring

Two backdrops resembling the pages of a book and featuring large text with phrases such as "sheer fiery sensuality" split the stage in two. On the left is an area representing Mellors' cottage in the woods, with leaves strewn haphazardly around; on the right is the Chatterleys' sitting room with a table, chairs and a carpet.

This is the setting for Lady Chatterley's Lover, the first Buxton Opera House production to go on a UK tour. After a short run in the Derbyshire spa town it'll visit 25 venues over the next two months.

Most people know the story of Lady Chatterley's Lover which was published in book form in 1928 but was banned in England and America. It was the subject of a fascinating trial in 1960 for supposedly breaching obscenity laws. The prosecuting counsel uttered the unforgettable line: "Is it a book you would wish your wife or servants to read?"

Now Paul Hurt has adapted Lawrence's tome for the stage and has endeavoured to retain the rich language of the original text. He's concentrated on the liaison between Mellors and Lady C and the scandal that ensues when it becomes public.

For anyone who hasn't read the novel, Lady Chatterley's Lover tells the story of a young, married woman in a sexless marriage with a husband paralysed from the hips down during World War One. She wants a child and her husband doesn't mind who the father is. But her affair with gamekeeper Mellors has an unforeseen side: the couple fall in love.

Darren Daly and Rebecca Aswani give enthusiastic, workmanlike performances in those roles and there is real tenderness between them. We have sympathy with their plight as they grow closer while Constance Chatterley and her husband's relationship falls apart. But the underlying problem is that the difference in class between Lady C and the servant doesn't come across.

At one point Lady Chatterley, talking to her husband about Mellors, describes him as curious and says he "could almost be a gentleman". But Daly never gives the impression of being anything other than working class while Aswani has neither the grace nor the elegance of an aristocrat.

Daly also plays D H Lawrence who narrates the piece and there are plenty of differences between the two characters. Mellors is supposed to speak broad Derbyshire while Lawrence has a Nottinghamshire lilt. Unfortunately Daly doesn't get to grips with either.

Paul McGreevy's performance as Clifford Chatterley comes to life when he becomes frustrated at not being able to move his wheelchair on his own. He is also impressive when becoming full of torment during his reading of a letter from his wife which says she's leaving him.

Amanda Beetham-Wallace gives a lively portrayal of Mrs Bolton who would be content to be more than a reassuring housekeeper to His Lordship if only he would divorce his wife.

Yvonne Hurt directs sensitively and there is haunting music from Richard Hodges which stays in your subconscious after the evening has ended.

A good initial effort from Buxton Opera House Productions. The piece doesn't have the shock value of Lawrence's original and it's one you wouldn't mind your wife or your servants watching.

"Lady Chatterley's Lover" tours until June 3rd

Reviewer: Steve Orme

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