The Sun Also Rises
Overlong and unsympathetic Hemingway adaptation
This article is from 2010.
This bloated, gargantually overlong production from US company Elevator Repair Service should, at over three-and-a-half hours, really provide its audience with a shower and a change of clothes as part of the ticket. An adaptation of Hemingway’s classic novel, the piece at times feels like a reading, given the long tracts of the novel, which are quoted directly at the audience from a stationary stage.
There are a few compensations in John Collins’ production, most notably David Zinns’ gorgeous period hotel bar design and some pretty and well-used lighting from Mark Barton. The piece pretty much reiterates Hemingway’s story of an American journalist (Mike Iveson) listlessly drifting from Paris to Spain with an assorted crew of bickering, drunken expatriates. All of the males, in one way or another are besotted with Lucy Taylor’s rudderless posh Englishwoman, with Matt Tierney’s twitchy Jewish novelist taking a particular emotional beating, and administering a few physical ones throughout the piece.
The problem here, aside from its unwieldy length, is the inability of the stage version to create the surprising sympathy for these wasters that Hemingway’s book does. Here the fate of the characters pretty quickly becomes a matter of indifference. Occasionally the piece stirs from its torpor, particularly in a dance sequence in the first act and the inevitable bullfight in the second, but by and large, once a few tricks with props and sound effects are done with, there’s little to ease the inertia. There are some good performances, in a biggish cast, with Iverson’s war scarred impotent lead very watchable, and Taylor’s flighty blonde nicely observed, but there is simply not enough to this production to justify even half its length.
Royal Lyceum Theatre, 473 2000, until 17 Aug, times vary, £10–£27.