The Talented Mr Ripley – Review
Over the past 4 years, we’ve been coincidentally going to Northern Stage to see a production at the beginning of March! Totally by chance and not planned. This past weekend I mentioned to Catherine, that we should go to see something at Nothern Stage. She mentioned, “The talented Mr RIpley” was on, but we hadn’t realised it was also finishing it’s run in Newcastle on Saturday night. We quickly booked up and got ready to have a night of culture.
The Talented Mr Ripley at northern Stage
Stepping into the unknown is often an exciting experience. Although I knew there were a book and film, I hadn’t read or seen either. So up until I sat in the theatre and the lights went down, I had no previous concepts of what the play was about.
Upon entry, everything is on show. There is no curtain or screening to hide the staging. The simplistic stage setting of a white square platform formed the majority of the environment of the show. A black backing curtain flanked by clothes rails and scaffold poles formed the props. Carefully lit with a surprisingly large amount of lighting. Unknown to me at the time, but this bare-bones, honest open-ness, worked in conjunction to the theme of the production. Identity!
HAVE YOU EVER HAD THE FEELING THAT YOU’RE BEING WATCHED?Tom Ripley
YOU HAVE? WHAT DID YOU DO? AND DID YOU GET AWAY WITH IT?
Starting in a 1950’s New York Bar, Tom Ripley (Christopher Hughes) is offered an opportunity to travel to Italy and persuade Dickie Greenleaf (Christopher York) to return to New York. Paid for my Dickie’s Father it is a once in a lifetime chance for Tom to take on the adventure and escape his dull lifestyle. Within the first 15 minutes, we’re sucked into Tom’s life and thought processes. His ability to be polite, friendly and likeable is one of his greatest assets. He shows a level of self-doubt that even he isn’t sure he can believe the story he’s about to play out. It doesn’t take much for Dickie’s Father to believe that they were life long best friends.
Full of energy and a pocket full of dollars Tom heads off to Mongibello to find his “good friend” (he’d met once), Dickie Greenleaf.
As a Polar opposite, Dickie has a strong New York drawl and exudes arrogance. Lying on the beach topping up his tan loving life and loving himself. By his side, we meet Marge (Sophie Spreadbury), his girlfriend, who at first seems to like meeting one of Dickie’s old friends.
Tom’s interest and their lifestyle turns into an obsession. Witnessing the couple, totally at ease with their own image, living on their wealthy families expenses and displaying confidence.
Despite the story being originally published in 1955, the topic seems very now. Touching on influencers, image, identity and expectations. Wanting to have someone else’s lifestyle could easily be talking about the social media generation of now.
The story doesn’t pan out as the original intention for the journey had in mind. Although Tom does find friendship in an old pal and for a brief time manages to find out what it is like to step into his shoes. Literally, his actual shoes and shirt too!
The Talented Mr Ripley – Review
I can’t say a bad word about any of the actors in this production. The performance was amazing and for a set with little hiding space, they were on show most of the time. Christopher Hughes, his portrayal of Tom Ripley, showed his ability to mimic really well, using a British accent for Tom and the New York Drawl for Dickie. Some of the monologues were intense and he hit them all with focus.
The minimalism of the set added a little confusion during the first half. I didn’t know the story and wasn’t fully aware of what was happening to who / where. However, everything totally fell into place during the second half and I totally got it.
I’m really glad we took the chance to see this before it left the Northern Stage. Although I’d admit I prefer a bigger production and maybe I’ve been spoiled from the past plays/shows I’ve seen here. However, the use of the simple, white, performance stage became the location for Tom’s life-changing, live performance.