The Ladies of the Camellias

by Lillian Garrett-Groag

Director John R. Taylor Sets John R. Taylor Costumes Catherine E. Carr Lighting Mario von Riedemann Sound Josh Hallem Stage Manager min Dumas

Dates and Venue 7-24 June 2007, 20.00 @ Jericho Arts Centre Reviewer Jane Penistan

Jericho Arts Centre closes its 2006-07 season with a delightful and sophisticated comedy. The Ladies of the Camellias is an imagined meeting of two internationally famous actresses of the late nineteenth century, Sarah Bernhardt and Eleanora Duse. Much of the play's content is historically correct and provides an authentic background for the script.

Set on the empty pre- performance stage of the Theatre de la Renaissance in Paris, 1897, John R. Taylor presents impressive marble pillars, flanking a wide stage dressed with footlights, stage furniture, and spare flats. The proscenium arch is in red plush, decorated with saucy gilt cherubs. Only the smell is lacking.

The characters of the two divas are nicely differentiated, with Deborah Spitz’s Sarah Bernhardt subtly and confidently outshining the Eleanora Duse of Claire Lindsay. Of the men, Tariq Leslie as Gustav Hyppolyte-Worms gives the most sophisticated and polished performance. Benoit, the elderly caretaker of the theatre and Bernhardt’s admirer, is devotedly played by Fraser Jones, to good effect.

The anachronistic Alexandre Dumas fils of Robert Clarke could give a little more polish to his performance. Casey Manderson has a long and physically demanding role as the anarchist, with a lot of quick speech, physicality, and theatricality. This he manages exceptionally well, with boundless energy, in nice contrast to the more restrained manners of the older actors. James Gill, as Coquelin/ Cyrano de Bergerac has a wonderful entry via a trapeze, of which he can and does take full advantage, briefly dominating the scene with aplomb.

The dialogue is well written and well delivered and the company plays well together. John Taylor’s assured, intelligent direction shines through this entertaining and clever production. Jericho closes the season with a flourish.

© 2007 Jane Penistan