First of all I think I should mention that I have not read Hemingway’s novel on which this play is based so obviously I can’t compare the two. However I have been told that characters have been cut and the story slightly altered in the stage adaption.
In this play Alex Helfrecht directs a four people cast and a Jazz Trio which remains part of the staging throughout the show. The intimacy of the venue helps to make the audience feel part of the action on stage. To be honest I could have done with being slightly less part of it especially when it came to being slashed with “red wine” – my friend actually ended up with a few red spots on her trousers.
Gideon Turner plays Jake, a WWI veteran and sports reporter who is haunted by his past and driven by his obsession for bullfighting. He is reunited with Lady Brett Ashley (Josie Taylor), the only woman he has ever loved but the two stumble into a love triangle when Jake’s friend, the novelist Robert Cohn (Jye Frasca) falls for Lady Ashley and cancels his wedding to be with her. To make things worse the handsome young matador Pedro (Jack Holder) appears and complicates the situation even more. In the end it is him – probably the most innocent of the four – who suffers the most because Robert can’t cope with the fact that “his” Brett doesn’t love him and has actually just used him for physical pleasure in the spur of the moment.
I admit it took me a while to get into the play. I found the first act to be slightly slow and a bit confusing but the latter might have been due to the fact that I went into the whole thing without the slightest clue what the play (and the book) was about. The second act on the other hand was gripping and I loved the few pieces of comedy that were thrown in to lighten up the rather dark and tense atmosphere of the story.
Jye Frasca is absolutely fantastic as the boyish Robert who has grown up being an outsider. I enjoyed Gideon Turner’s take on Jake and was pretty impressed by Josie Taylor who plays a character that is both passionate and free-spirited. Jack Holden manages to portray the bullfighter Pedro with just the right amount of comedy without turning his character into a joke.
All in all this play is refreshing and innovative. It does need some work to make the story flow better especially in act one. But all in all it is definitely worth seeing. Please don’t watch it expecting light entertainment or you might be disappointed. And be aware that Jazz music is quite prominent throughout the play (personally I found the drums slightly too loud for my liking and I’m usually not bothered by loud music). I know this particular style of music is not to everyone’s taste so I thought I would point it out.
Personally I’m going back to watch the show a second time at the end of the month – and before that I will read the novel to get more insight into the characters and the whole background. I guess it will be interesting to see how much difference this makes to my understanding of the play.
Fiesta – The Sun Also Rises is running at Trafalgar Studios 2 until 2nd March. For more info and to book tickets go to http://fiestawestend.com/