On Wednesday we saw Kiss Of The Spider Woman at the Menier Chocolate Factory – a new dramatic adaptation of Manuel Puig’s novel, in just 1 hour and 40 minutes.
With direction by former artistic director of the National Theatre of Scotland, Laurie Sansom, here’s why you need to see José Rivera & Allan Baker’s adaptation.
Samuel Barnett and Declan Bennett both deliver stellar performances.
Barnett plays Molina, a homosexual window-dresser, who distracts himself and Valentin from the harsh reality of prison by retelling the plots of his favourite movies to the pass the time. His storytelling is endearing and subtly flirtatious, as he dreams of being the female lead. Despite being a prisoner – for acts of gross indecency – we see the goodness of his character, who is ultimately a romantic dreamer with a heart of gold.
Bennett’s character Valentin contrasts dramatically – an opinionated, passionate, political minded Marxist, who sticks to his ideals and is fighting for a bigger cause. As the play progresses, his character develops as he opens up and warms up to Molina and we see him as a vulnerable human being. Bennett plays the character with the perfect balance between the hard and softer sides of his personality.
The majority of the play takes place within the Argentinian prison cell, with the characters rarely stepping outside these four walls. As the audience enters, the two prisoners are already in place in their cell, and it feels like we are really stepping into their world. There is a great atmosphere in the intimate setting of the Menier Chocolate Factory, which really contributes to the confinement of the jail cell. The set is minimal but the space used gradually expands, and there is even rain used by the end.
Andrzej Goulding’s projections are used whilst Molina tells the stories of his favourite movies. The stories are a form of escapism for the characters, and it feels like the prison cell expands as the audience too feel this escapism through watching the projections. This is contrasted often by a quick snap back to reality as Bennett’s realist character questions the romanticism of the plots, or Molina ends the story at a suspenseful point to save for the next night.
The relationship between the characters is beautiful, with real tender moments where the characters are vulnerable together. The actors are so comfortable with one another, and at times it feels like the audience isn’t even there as it is so intimate. In the depressing prison cell, the characters remind us of what it means to be human.
Kiss Of The Spider Woman plays at the Menier Chocolate Factory until Saturday 5 May 2018. You can book your tickets via the Menier Chocolate Factory’s website.