It is a brave step to transfer an iconic film into a stage play. Sometimes it works and other times it does not. In this particular case Terry Johnson’s adaptation coupled with Lucy Bailey’s direction has resulted in a stylish, funny and emotionally charged production.
Terry Johnson draws on both the film and screenplay and the novel in his adaptation and successfully preserves its satirical wit but he has added a few twists of his own.
He fleshes out the mother and daughter relationship and makes it an integral part of the play with a soul searching and home truth telling session between them both. Johnson has also made us feel able to get inside Benjamin’s head and his thoughts by video sequences as Benjamin plays out the male fantasy of sleeping with the mother before marrying the daughter.
Director Lucy Bailey has been able to dig deeper into the characterization and emotions of mother and daughter which is particularly poignant, sympathetic and moving. She shows an appreciation of the era in which it is set – the early 60’s, when a middle-aged woman’s role was so different from today and she had to grin and bear it even when sexually repressed and neglected by her husband and trapped in a loveless, empty marriage.
The play moves along beautifully with an ingeniously designed minimalistic set, amazing video and sound sequences and brilliant use of a gauze curtain and moveable bed.
Catherine McCormack’s portrayal as the alcoholic Mrs Robinson is outstanding. She develops bitterness and anger at being trapped in an empty marriage with a husband who has affairs and leaves her alone at home. She feels bitter by the fact that her daughter is responsible for her situation. McCormack builds on all this letting you into her inner most feelings and making you almost feel she is right to get her own back by seducing Ben.
As Ben Jack Monaghan ticks every box. He romps through the demanding role with amazing energy. He creates the perfect illusion of a spoilt son – yet he gives Ben an inner depth. You laugh with him, cry with him and at times feel angry with him. Monaghan creates a loveable character, blessed with great comedy timing and proves he is a master of physical theatre skills.
The Graduate is at West Yorkshire Playhouse until Saturday May 27 before going out on tour.
Tickets: 0113 213 7700