The Finborough’s Vibrant festival has been running for 3 years now, offering an opportunity to catch pieces of new writing and works-in-progress from the vast number of playwrights with some connection to the West London theatre. I’ve attended a few of these readings in the past and am loving the fact that I will soon have the opportunity to see a full production of one of them early next year as Mike Bartlett’s Bull makes its bow up in Sheffield.
Catching my eye this year though was the chance to see a musical version of Thérèse Raquin with music by Craig Adams and book and lyrics by Nona Shepphard. We were treated to the first half in its entirety and remarkably, a cast of 13 gathered to give full voice to this intriguingly pitched musical which lies, in the astute words of my companion for the evening, ‘between Les Mis and Sunday in the Park with George”.
I’ll keep things brief as this is a work-in-progress but the efforts of the leads can’t go unnoticed as there was some incredible work going on on the stage given how little time they must have had to prepare. Katie Brayben channeled her inner Julie Walters brilliantly playing way above her age as a bustling, slightly comic Madame Raquin who dotes on her sickly son Camille, a well-observed earnestness coming from Bart Edwards. The connection between this pair is well-constructed both musically and in the book, amusing light-heartedness balanced with a slightly oppressive insularity that Camille’s wife Thérèse just cannot deal with.
Shoe-horned into marriage with Camille, who is actually her first cousin, Madalena Alberto’s Thérèse glowers in a depressed near-silence for the longest time, a daring move for a title character, and only eventually springs into life when Alex Gaumond’s Laurent appears. For they have been conducting an affair and given the heat that crackled off these two, it is a pretty passionate one. What they managed to achieve in the shortest amount of time to thoroughly convince us of the vitality of their relationship was sensational, but again it was a combination of the effective writing alongside the intensity of performance that impressed and definitely left me, and the rest of the theatre, wanting more. Definitely a show to keep your eye out for.