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Gothic Season at the Hope Theatre: Her Aching Heart

Published by: Carolin Kopplin on 4th Dec 2016 | View all blogs by Carolin Kopplin

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Last night I dreamt I went to Hellstone Hall again.

The final offering of the Gothic Season at the Hope Theatre is a parody on Gothic romantic novels, framed by a modern day love story. A London couple is reading the same novel, thereby entering the world of Lady Harriet (Colette Eaton) of Hellstone Hall and peasant girl Molly (Naomi Todd). One of the two London women is abroad but as they are reading the novel, they share a special closeness all the same as the love story unfolds and they picture themselves as characters in the story.

In the novel, Lady Harriet comes across Molly during a fox hunt when Molly desperately tries to save the fox, only to see it perish. Molly blames the haughty Lady Harriet for the fox's demise and but a fire of passion has been kindled by their encounter, leaving their rather inept male suitors without a chance. Held back by the restraints of the class system and the taboo on their special kind of love, there is quite a bit of sighing and chest heaving before their romance eventually gains momentum - leading to murders most foul with one of the protagonists fleeing to revolutionary France whilst the other becomes a nun. 

Matthew Parker's 25th Anniversary production of Bryony Lavery's play intelligently spoofs the style and language of novels such as "Rebecca" and "Wuthering Heights" with Ian Brandon's songs adding to the romantic atmosphere of the piece. The two actors convince as the two female leads along with a variety of other roles, including Molly's granny (Colette Eaton) who is quite a character, Lady Harriet's slutty and insolent maid Betsy (Naomi Todd), and the two suitors - the hilarious Lord Rothermere (Naomi Todd), whose plan for romancing Lady Harriet includes "Bed her and get her breeding", and a good natured country yokel (Colette Eaton).

The intimate venue is transformed from a bar, where Colette Eaton starts off the performance as a torch singer seductively crooning "Babe, you're unwelcome, so why are you here?" to Lady Harriet's stately home and Molly's village, using few props and a lot of imagination (set and costume design by Rachael Ryan).

There is not a dull moment in this fast-paced production, providing lots of laughs, a fiery romance, and an exciting sword fight.

By Carolin Kopplin

Until 23rd December 2016

Hope Theatre

207 Upper Street, Islington, London N1 1RL and can be found on the corner of Upper Street and Islington Park Street.

Box office: 0333 666 3366

Running time: 2 hours 15 minutes including one interval

 

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