Review: Lady Chatterley’s Lover at Oxford Playhouse
What you get with this English Touring Theatre and Sheffield Theatres production of Lady Chatterley’s Lover is the SparkNotes version of DH Lawrence’s classic novel on stage.
This is a choppy rendition, with short scenes, that propels us through the plot. For me (impatient, a fan of five minute meetings, and always eager for a story to progress) this works – it keeps me alert, it prevents me from drifting off, I understand what’s happening.
Throughout the play – which marks the centenary of the Somme – are frequent reminders that it is set in the aftermath of World War One, that the tragedy of the Great War lingered long after its conclusion. As Eugene O’Hare as Sir Clifford Chatterley taps away on his typewriter the sounds produced are like those of gunshots, denoting the premise that, as a character wheelchair-bound by the war, he still hears the noises of its weaponry.
Further, the cage Oliver Mellors (portrayed by Jonah Russell) keeps birds in does appear coffin-like. The stage also often finds itself littered with flowers, giving the impression of a burial ground. Death and grief is regularly symbolised, communicating the fact it engulfs the world Lady Chatterley’s Lover is set in.
Lawrence’s novel was banned in Britain until 1960. “The reasons given for the censorship of Lady Chatterley’s Lover include Lawrence’s frank and controversial portrayal of sex” writes Dan Rebellato. There is actually something very charming about this production’s depiction of sex. The lovemaking between Constance Chatterley (Hedydd Dylan) and Mellors is short and clumsy, otherwise known as realistic – this is its appeal. The way the team behind this show present sex is also no accident, it’s deliberately counter-Hollywood, as you can see in a recent interview with Hedydd Dylan here.
While Act One is a tad flat in comparison to the emotionally rich second half of the current ETT and Sheffield Theatres offering, this is a pacey yet coherent, and at times darkly humerous, presentation of Lawrence’s novel which beats just reading SparkNotes any night of the week.
Related Articles: An interview with Hedydd Dylan