When I think of E.M Forster’s novel ‘A Room with a View,’ I immediately conjure scenes from the 1985 film adaptation; largely because of the romance captured through its being filmed initially in beautiful Florence. This led to my biggest concern prior to seeing Simon Reade’s adaptation of the work as a play, at the Norwich Theatre Royal – how would the atmosphere be retained without the stunning scenery? Would Forster’s vivid descriptions of Florence be entirely lost in the theatre?
And well, yes. There was no hope for this aspect of the narrative when comparing a stage set to reality, despite a number of fluid backdrop changes. However, whilst this at first seemed to be a loss, it actually created a compelling shift of focus on events for the audience; ‘A Room with a View,’ was always going to be subtly comedic whatever the form, but this performance was downright hilarious. I’m not sure any of the audience went a full two minutes without laughing; lines that had appeared funny before were heightened by the spotlight being less on the surroundings, but on the characters themselves. Felicity Kendal, the big name of the show, played a sassy and complex Charlotte Bartlett, speaking directly to the audience at several points with the result of a fantastic reaction from the full theatre. Alongside her as the leading lady, Lauren Coe offered a Lucy Honeychurch that was surprisingly outspoken and strong willed; as a ‘modern’ young woman, she shirks the expectations thrust upon her by society and we were all rooting for her as she eventually broke off her engagement to the insufferable Cecil Vyse, who was excellently delivered by Charlie Anson.
There was also a great emphasis on transitions within the play, from interior to exterior, suggestions of Florentine streets to Surrey Countryside- it was ever shifting and grounded the narrative in its passing of time. Whilst some lines were slightly adapted to give the play a more modern feel, the costumes remained in keeping with Forster’s intentions, and created a successful turn-of-the-century aesthetic.
Lastly, I don’t think I could write a review without even briefly mentioning the pond bathing incident. If you’ve read or seen the story before, you’ll know exactly the one I mean and I’m happy to report that they fully embrace this scene. On the other hand, if you don’t have a clue then you should get down to Norwich Theatre Royal this week to find out- but do be prepared to see a bit of buttock.
A Room With a View will be running at Norwich Theatre Royal 7-12th November
Photo credit to Norwich Theatre Royal