The Lovers of Viorne (The Theatre Room)

Frontier’s first production is a staging of a French classic

Charlotte Cornwell (Claire) and Kevin Trainor (Interrogator)
Charlotte Cornwell (Claire) and Kevin Trainor (Interrogator)
© Oscar Blustin

Director James Roose-Evans has made it his mission to re-invent our perception of the Third Age. His new company Frontier focuses on actors over 60, staging plays with meaty roles for performers who often get overlooked in our youth-obsessed society. And with their first show, he manages to demonstrate just how idiotic it is to ignore actors who might be showing a little grey hair: the acting is excellent.

The Lovers of Viorne is Marguerite Duras’ play about what drives someone to commit a horrendous, violent crime. It is inspired by a true story, here moulded into the tale of a woman who murders her deaf and dumb cousin, chops her into little pieces and deposits those pieces on trains which head to many different places across France. The head is never found.

Its form is very simple: first, in an attempt to get to the bottom of just why this happened, an ‘interrogator’ – journalist? Policeman? We are never sure who he is – asks the husband of the woman who has committed the crime a series of questions. In the second half, it’s the turn of Claire the perpetrator.

Kevin Trainor is the Interrogator, and he has a mole-like, slightly jumpy quality that works as a strong central presence. Martin Turner plays husband Pierre, slightly steely, he seems so much less surprised than we think he should be about the fact that his wife has suddenly turned murderer. His responses to the Interrogator have a heavy, world weariness about them: a sense of inevitability. It feels real – there’s no hysteria here, no shouting or screaming, just a quiet, deep shock.

Charlotte Cornwell is a remarkable force as Claire, sitting opposite Trainor, her several sudden outbursts are clearly a release, a need for which, we begin to understand, may have been what drove her to murder. She is remorseless and completely aware of what she has done. But she is unable to explain exactly why she has done it. Nobody can.

It makes Duras’ play a little frustrating and although Roose-Evans’ production is short at one hour forty, it drags. It doesn’t help that Frontier’s new theatre space – in the heart of the City of London – has some pretty uncomfortable seats. The play was born from the fascination Duras had with a gruesome murder but that fascination is diluted within a lot of psychological wrestling. We pine for more of the horror and less of the thought. Still, it's a robust production and a promising start to an excellent new theatrical venture.

The Lovers of Viorne runs at The Theatre Room until 21 May.