LOUIS de Bernieres’ 1994 novel Captain Corelli’s Mandolin is an epic story encapsulating the legends, history and life of the residents of Kefalonia, from the bucolic peace of the early 1930s through the tormented years of war to present-day, post-earthquake tourism.
Made into a film in 2001 and starring Penelope Cruz and Nicholas Cage, it was transformed to a sentimental romance, much to the chagrin of lovers of the book.
Now the remarkable Rona Munro has adapted it for a stage production, directed by Melly Still and designed by Mayou Trikerioti, and it’s a triumph.
The ensemble cast brings out the colour, smells and sounds of the rocky Greek island, as the doctor, his independent-minded daughter Pelagia and their neighbours eke an existence during the occupation by German and Italian troops. It’s a love song to a place and a way of life as much as a personal romance.
The clever staging, with its back projections, vivid soundscape and atmospheric lighting, evoke the terror of both war and seismic events, as well as the breathtaking beauty of the Mediterranean and the excitement of love.
The company, with Madison Clare as Pelagia, Joseph Long as her father, Alex Mugnaioni as Capt Corelli, Ashley Gayle as Mandras, Ryan Donaldson as Carlo and Eve Polycarpou as Drosoula, as well as a charmingly convincing goat and pine marten, were also required to sing traditional songs and grand opera, die dramatic deaths and capture the essence of a story whose result has been a tourist bonanza for the island.
The production is at Bath until Saturday 18th May, and the tour continues to the end of June.