Berenice, Donmar Warehouse, London. November 2012
Now the nights are longer and the days colder the early starts and late finishes that a day in London necessitates are becoming less appealing but I know that once I get over that the trips are going to be fun.
I have in fact made four trips to London in just 10 days. Once to see a comedy tryout, once to go to the London Aquarium with my sister and nephew, once for a Sherlock themed fund raiser and then lastly to go to the Donmar Warehouse with my usual theatre going partner in crime.*
Not knowing anything in particular about the story we chose this play solely because this adaptation has been written by Alan Hollinghurst who is one of our favourite authors.
The Donmar Warehouse is fast becoming one of may favourite venues in London. I can't say I'd necessarily like to see a very long play there as the seats are padded benches but the space is so intimate and cosy that I feel at home as soon as I enter the auditorium.
Berenice is set in Rome just after the death of the Emperor Vespasian. His successor Titus is in love with Queen Berenice, a non Roman. Vespasian disapproved of the match but now that Titus is in charge Berenice is just waiting for his proposal. Life is never that simple and when another suitor appears and all of Rome disapproves of the match then you know things aren't going to go well...
The play is formed of long speeches rather than snappy dialogue and has a very sparse set - the only props are two chairs, a staircase and a dagger. None of this matters, the actors make it a very intense and captivating play, odd in the extreme but compelling. The ending is also a surprise in many ways and that was really pleasing to me.
I still am unsure why a play set in the Golden Palace, in the heart of Rome, was full of sand, even falling from the roof of the theatre but I loved it and I am now going to have to search out a fuller (translated) version of Racine's original play.
The Berenice set from our seats in the circle, sand and all!
*My theatre-going-partner-in-crime is now fine with me revealing her identity (as she told me in no uncertain terms on Saturday) and so to find out more about my talented friend Rebecca please do check out her website!