April 6, 2007, by Peter Kirwan
Venus & Adonis (Little Angel) @ The Little Angel Theatre
My ‘Complete Works’ may be over, but several of the productions that made it up are not yet! ‘Coriolanus’ is off on tour, ‘King Lear’ is still playing in the Courtyard and ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ returns to the Swan in April. On Wednesday I went for my second viewing of yet another production, ‘Venus and Adonis’, at the Little Angel Theatre in London, home of the company who created the show.
I only saw the production a couple of weeks ago, but my reasons for seeing it again were two-fold. First, I quite wanted to see the theatre itself. It’s a converted church, with pews and a puppet-sized stage. Very intimate and atmospheric, with something of a makeshift feel to it that belied the fact that this is one of the most important puppet-based companies in the UK, it was a fine little space which suited the small-scale production. The second reason for seeing it was the change in narrator, with John Hopkins (who played Caesar in ‘Antony’ and Sebastian in ‘The Tempest’) taking over from Harriet Walter.
Hopkins did an excellent job. As so much of the poem is spoken in Venus’ voice, I was interested to see whether a male narration would affect the production, but surprisingly it didn’t. Hopkins made the play his own, though, interacting freely with the action and giving Adonis in particular a lot of humour by giving him a comically heroic attitude and voice.
It struck me how fascinating it would have been to see each of the visiting companies in their ‘home’ space, especially as one or two productions (‘The Two Gentlemen Of Verona’ springs particularly to mind) suffered somewhat from an inappropriate venue at their Stratford engagement. The production, bar the change in narrator, had changed little in its home venue, but the intimacy of the space gave it a warmer feel, less epic but almost more heartfelt. I’m very much looking forward to their return to Stratford for ‘Fantastic Mr. Fox’ at Christmas!
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