Writer: Martina Cole
Adapted for the stage by Patrick Prior
Director: Lisa Goldman
Revewer: Livia Brown
The Public Reviews Rating:
Martina Cole has long been an extremely popular crime novelist with an army of devoted fans and the Theatre Royal Stratford East have attempted to capitalise on that by translating her work to the stage. Thus, Dangerous Lady is the third in a series of Cole adaptations by Patrick Prior for this East London theatre.
From start to finish however, this production doesn’t quite work. The dialogue was uninspiring, the set awkward with the poor actors having to wait until its revolving floor moved into place every time they changed scenes. Cues and lines were sloppy; stage hands could be seen in the back moving furniture for future scenes and twice lots of clattering and banging could be heard backstage – perhaps a poor ASM was having a bad day.
It was hard to tell whether the slow pace was design or direction related but the whole production just felt so unbelievably dated and lack-lustre. Lisa Goldman’s production should have relished the irony, sizzled with Cole’s sexiness and mastery, glorified and invested in its trashiness. Instead, it ran flat with no real fire– in fact not one of the seemingly ‘emotional’ scenes managed to conjure up any real feeling at all.
Claire-Louise Cordwell as Maura put in a good performance but lacked the sass and bite fundamental to the character being a well-rounded and admirable protagonist. She also failed to display the vulnerability and youthful quality of the seventeen years she was at first supposed to represent. James Clyde as Michael was also good enough, his most interesting scene was a surprising moment of tenderness with his gay partner, but even he tended to subside into the classic stereotypical east-London gangster. The rest of the cast supported the play well but nothing particularly out of the ordinary.
The best thing about this production was the audience. It was ‘Newham Discount Night’ and the crowd were brilliant: heckling, jeering, boisterous and definitely representative of Cole’s classic reader. For this reason, they have been undersold. The sex, the drama and excitement should have been oozing off the stage such its subject matter. Instead, it just felt like a slightly muted version of a soap opera – generalisation, lack of detail and imagination.
It will be interesting to see how the production changes as the run develops, once the cast become more familiar with all its technicalities. Or perhaps this is simply an example of a fantastic novel that despite great efforts just doesn’t quite translate as well to the stage.
Photo: Robert Day
Runs until 17th November
Dangerous Lady – Theatre Royal Stratford East, London,