Liverpool Sound and Vision Rating * * * * *
Cast: Emma Fielding, John Nicholson, Javier Marzan, Jonathan Holmes.
There will always be the book, the classic pieces of literature that everybody has heard of and to whom as a single person people will believe they know what it is about down to hearsay and speculated knowledge; it won’t have been read but it will be understood by reputation alone. It may be understood for what it is known for but it won’t be comprehended or valued until it is actually read first hand and then it fits into place that what you know, is nothing like what you know.
One of the great heroines of 19th Century French Literature, Emma Bovary, is reduced in many people’s eyes to that of a woman who arguably see her as a woman of dubious virtue rather than a female protagonist who shows the patriarchal society the sobering effects of their domination and subjugation on the women on the time. It is an effect that is not misplaced as the excellent theatre company Peepolykus adapt the complexity of Gustav Flaubert’s heroine in the funny, utterly compelling and far reaching The Massive Tragedy of Madame Bovary! at the Everyman Theatre.
The complexity of the novel, the huge sense of importance that comes attached to it is one that might not naturally lend itself to the stage, the amount of characters within the play, the need to strike the right balance in how Emma Bovary is perceived by an audience; none of these things are easily dealt with, unless of course you are a cast of four with controlled anarchy on your side, the bravery in performance and of course a director of absolute distinction in Gemma Bodinetz bringing the whole orchestra of well timed humour meticulously to the point of beautiful release.
Javier Marzan and John Nicholson’s adaptation of the novel borders on the insanely brilliant, full of genuinely great moments and with the subtlety that keeps it grounded just when an audience might expect it to go completely off the rails. With Emma Fielding performing with tremendous zeal in the lead role and with the movements in the scenes captured superbly by Elinor Randle, The Massive Tragedy of Madame Bovary! is a triumph of human endeavour to bring a story to the stage which defies expectation.
You would not expect anything less than hilarious, witty, informative or charming from Peepolykus, The Massive Tragedy of Madame Bovary! doesn’t let the audience down at all for a single minute, a cast iron play of absolute genius.
Ian D. Hall