The Alexandre Dumas novel, The Count of Monte Cristo is a weighty tome. The audience are told this at the top of the show. The conceit being that workers from a cigar rolling factory adore the novel so much they are bursting to tell the audience the story that they know so well.
From a very busy stage, the story that comes in at over 1000 pages is condensed down into a more palatable 90 minute romp. Three actors, Alex Dunbar, Kali Hughes and Dan Winter take on a vast number of Dumas characters, switching between good and evil whilst occasionally checking in with our cigar rolling friends from the beginning.
Both the rollers and the text work well in principle. It’s a fun conceit that highlights director Andy Burden’s desire to tell the story from, ‘the common man’s point of view’. Their confusion, delight and honesty add a human element to the proceedings. What needs to happen now is that the cast trust the material and find the fun in it that the audience wants to experience. In between the broad brush stoke story telling there are also some genuinely beautiful moments, especially in the second half when Dantes returns as the Count. Kali Hughes especially allowed her characters to breath and as Mercedes allowed the realisation of Dantes return to hit home internally rather than taking the easy option.
Revolution is at this productions heart. It is a giant undertaking and Burden, designer Natalie Remington and the cast have tackled it head on and have created a piece of theatre that will settle into a truly joyful, honest and dynamic piece of storytelling.