A Tale of Two Cities at The King's Theatre is like stepping back in time, and the scene is cleverly set before the play begins as the audience is treated to a dreamlike view into the late18th century. Mike Britton.designer along with Ruth Hall costume & associate designer must take much of the credit for bringing the past back to life on stage here.
The play is faithful to Charles Dickens' story of political and personal turmoil, revenge and tragedy as the story flits between London and Paris. Playwright Mike Poulton is acclaimed for adaptations of past European and British literary authors as well as present day Hilary Mantel. He excels in this explosive and endearing new work. It is explosive in its use of snapshots of power and evil imposed arbitrarily on both personal and societal levels. It is endearing in that love and loyalty flourishes against all odds. It also shocks in the portrayal of sacrifice which the story reveals in many ways.
The charming and crisp original music composed by Rachel Portman is magnificent. Do listen!
The stagecraft lends itself wonderfully to the action of the storyline, thanks to James Dacre, Director. The swift, yet subtle scene changes sweep us through the action as if one was actually part of the revolution taking place in France.
Oddly enough though for a play (and original story) about such huge passions, Jacob Ifan portrays little of that passion as Charles Darnay, and there is no feeling that Lucie (played Shanaya Rafaat) is important to him (let alone a great romance going on here) despite a sometimes very touching and tender portrayal on stage by Shanaya. In sharp contrast is Joseph Timmes as lawyer Sydney Carlton who plays the role with such reality. You really feel that you are with him when he is drunk, feeling miserable to the point of suicide, lovestruck when he knows it will never be fulfilled. A touching performance of a lovable wastrel.
This is revolutionary France. Fight scenes though short and vicious, are chillingly convincing.
Review by Nordann Lyshelt