Any purist would know of the anxieties present in watching an adaptation of a literary classic. This was particularly after Sport by Jove’s Moby Dick, where (in my opinion) the play was well executed, but script limiting and clipped of Herman Melville’s touch. With that being the case, the question is: is Genesian able to distil the essence and humanity of A Room with a View into a two-hour play?
Thankfully, I can say with a deep feeling of relief, that Director Mark Nagle nailed it (‘nagled’ it?) this time around. The performance and its execution by the Genesian Theatre Company is very by the book, which might not appeal to everyone (though it did the trick for me). It feels safe, and after watching the spectacularly edgy Herringbone last week, I relished the comfort of this traditional theatre.
The acting from this play highlights how community theatre is continually able to punch above its weight. The characters were highly believable and engaging, with strong performances from Phoebe Atkinson (as the struggling Lucy Honeychurch), Karyn Hall (as Miss Lavish) and Ravel Balkus (the boyish Freddy Honeychurch). Notably, Atkinson successfully countenances the composure and grace of Edwardian expectation with an air of youthful hope and rejuvenation. Hall’s performance reminded me so much of an English relative it was uncanny and Balkus was able to make me forget that there was an actor behind Freddy, seemingly embodying the true nature of his essence. Credit also to the deceptively inauthentic and manipulative Charlotte Bartlett (Anna Desjardins); the wise and entertaining Mr Beebe (Tristian Black); and the Emmerson’s (Christopher Dibb and Joshua Sediak), a beacon of light to the audience. However, despite many strong performances, Valentin Lang’s internalisation of the superficially knowledgeable high-status figure of Cecil Vyse felt a little out-of-touch in the midst of his fellow cast. Though, I believe this is less a weakness of Lang’s acting – moreso as a general shortcoming of the adaptation to properly engage insight into that specific character.
The play just seemed like it all worked well and cohesively with one another from a production perspective as well. The set (courtesy of Mark Bell and Nagle) was very cleverly thought out, being able to double as both Florence and England very convincingly. The attention to detail was absolute, as seen in a Florentine church scene using a backlit stain glass piece in the background with seamless multicoloured lights (courtesy of Michael Schell) to enhance the effect making it all very convincing. It is these little things that make such a difference for the audience’s experience and perception of the play.
Ultimately, whilst the play’s orthodox and by-the-book attitude may not be for everyone, I commend it as a didactic coming-of-age story about living life out as an authentic autonomous agent. Well done to the Nagle, his cast and the production team for creating such a worthy adaptation to a well-known and loved literary classic.