Yesterday I went to the Menier Theatre at London Bridge for a matinee performance of Christopher Hampton's "Total Eclipse".
The Menier, which was once a chocolate factory, has been a theatre and gallery for about 3 years now and offers top quality productions.
This play is about the two French poets, Verlaine and Rimbaud and their homosexual relationship and friendship. It was a stormy companionship, mainly due to Rimbaud's wild streak and the older Verlaine's inability to make a decision and stick to it - unwilling to give up either Rimbaud or his wife and addicted to Absinthe.
I was surprised when I entered the auditorium. The usual stage area and tiered bench seating were gone. In their place a rectangular, slightly raised, wooden platform was in the centre of the room and there were rows of wooden chairs either side for the audience.
The set involved several chairs, beds and tables that were carried on and off stage for different scenes and then lined the walls at the side when not in use.
I found this minimalistic approach very effective, especially when coupled with the atmospheric lighting and music.
The cast accessed the stage from all round the room, coming on behind you or from the side. All the performances were amazing but Daniel Evans and Jamie Doyle commanded the stage as the leads.
There was a remarkable chemistry between these two actors and the tension was high indeed. Daniel Evans showed his amazing skills as an actor yet again and Jamie Doyle clearly has a great future ahead of him!
This is an exciting piece of theatre that really brings the relationship of these two men and the time in which they lived to life. I was transfixed throughout the whole show and not even the uncomfortable seats could spoil my enjoyment.
There are still a few weeks left before the end of the run and I can highly recommend a trip to see the show - you won't be disappointed.
I raise my glass of Absinthe to the cast and the creative team. - Nicola Armitt
06 May 07
Although Paul Miller's production looks absolutely beautiful, the traverse staging gets a little wearisome, and there is hardly any sense of danger and anarchy in Hampton's script, well turned and witty though it frequently is. It doesn't help that the fine actor Daniel Evans is partnered by the Jamie Doyle who, despite being suitably good looking, delivers one of the most bland and unconvincing professional performances I have ever witnessed on the London stage. Rimbaud is a cracking role, but Doyle didn't make me believe one iota in his talent, passion or intelligence. He just comes across as a sullen boyband wannabe in period costumes. The three women in the cast are rather good in underwritten roles. This was a mildly enjoyable show but I couldn't really see quite why anybody thought it was worth reviving the play. - ajh
02 Apr 07
At a preview, the production and acting seemed underpowered. We should still be shocked and thrilled by the relationship of Verlaine and Rimbaud. Here, it was too tame. - Fred
30 Mar 07
I was confused when entering the Chocolate factory as the last show I had seen was the brilliant Sunday. I couldn't work out where everything was and where audience started and where the stage was. This then became very exciting and refreshing! It all felt a bit hip and installation like especially with Millers eerie music and the lights. Daniel Evans was superb and Jamie super sexy! The other cast were wonderful too. I had a truly memorable evening and would certainly recommend this to friends. I also met Christopher Hampton which was a nice way to wrap up a great time. Restaurant food this time however was a bit ropey. - David Lintel
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