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Theatre Review by Leonard Miller
What: Teleny
Where: Chapel Off Chapel
When: 29th May – 15th June
Produced by Fly-On-The-Wall Theatre
Written by Barry Lowe
Directed by Rob Chuter
Performed by Tom Byers, Frederique Fouche, Dushan Philips, Jackson Raine, Jonathan Duffy, Daniel Hill, Ross Dwyer, Marc Opitz, Ava Amedi, Matthew Dorning, Rhys Parnell, Timothy Hare, Maud Leger, Christopher Pender, David Macrae and Josiah Lulham.
Teleny is an erotic novel anonymously published in 1893 and purportedly written by Oscar Wilde and his circle. It is remarkable for its homosexual content, its aesthetic sensitivity and its well drawn plot and characters. Rob Chuter’s production of Barry Lowe’s adaptation, however, has none of these qualities. Indulgent, over-long and two-dimensional, Teleny has little to recommend it.
The first thing that must be mentioned is the running time. Advertised on the website at one hundred and fifty minutes including interval the play actually clocks in at over three and a half hours. This meant that after a delayed start at quarter past eight the audience finally emerged at ten minutes to midnight.
Should the work have been compelling, this may have been forgivable. Alas, Rob Chuter demonstrates none of the skill garnered over nearly thirty years of making queer theatre and has presented a drear and lifeless rendering that strives to impress but fails at almost every turn.
The original novel, set in fin-de-siecle Paris, has been updated and is now set in 1930s Paris. This leap of forty years seems odd and only serves to confuse the sense of place and time. The costumes are more in keeping with Edwardian fashion, while the stage is set with Victorian, antique furniture featuring a beautiful walnut grand piano. This melange of periods creates a shifting and indeterminate world for the action and leaves the audience adrift.
The actors try valiantly and the discipline of the cast is made obvious with the excessive and excessively long and frequent nude scenes. The cast retained focus and delivered bravely through both the heavy handed and clumsy direction and the laughs inappropriately elicited by the gratuity of the mass nude scene that opened the second act.
Chuter’s direction is uninspired. The actors appear hamstrung and tied to a visual style at the expense of any honesty of action. None of the characters ring true and the performances are wooden and dead. Whether or not Barry Lowe has succeeded with his script is difficult to say. It, along with the actors, is strangled by a vision that is ill conceived.
Based on a fascinating footnote in modern literature, stay at home and read the book instead.
1 star
Photo by Francine Schaepper Photography