The Massive Tragedy of Madame Bovary

February 6-27

The Massive Tragedy of Madame Bovary

Everyman Liverpool


Quite a misnomer, because in fact, there seems to be nothing else quite like Peepolykus, so, of course, ‘The Massive Tragedy of Madame Bovary’ is equally matched by a massive amount of laughs.

It matters not if you have read the book

(even in the original French; though it does make you wonder whether Charles Bovary was really so keen on peas, or was that lost in translation perhaps…), the basic tale is quite simple: the eponymous heroine, head stuffed full of what she has absorbed from romantic novels, is disillusioned to discover that with real life, husband and lovers, none of them are like that at all. Throw in massive debts, and well, you can guess what’s bound to happen.

But here, we’re taking the scenic route, along with a pair of ratcatchers of all things, along with some characters a million miles and over a hundrd odd years away from the original. The fourth wall is not just broken but completely demolished, as the cast banter and bicker and appeal to members of the audience – scenes are apparently changed at the last minute. More often than not, dialogue is in danger of being drowned out by the audience’s howls of laughter. Along with this audible appreciation, much else to admire in the setting and the staging; there’s so much inventive business going on, enough spectaculaly special effects to make your head spin. And no animals were actually hurt during this production although mercilessly employed, in some form or another, from rats to horses.

The cast of four work so well together, the whole thing flows, even given their disagreements, sudden changes of mind, umpteen costume changes etc. Emma Fielding, for all the silliness, still creates a sympathetic heroine, not least considering her dull, naïve husband, played by John Nicholson with his conversely Einsten harido. Jonathan Holmes excels in multitudinous roles but mostly as the sinister, sleazy moneylender, the conversely named Lheureux. Then of course there’s Javier Marzan, who seemed to have his very own fanclub. Possibly the most anarchic of them all, he revels in the roles of Leon and Rodolphe, so much with the latter, he insists on a repeat of the climatic seduction scene which ends Part 1 and out-Barbers that adagio: all the bells and whistles as it were, and every metaphor and cliché going (not even going to mention squashed cats. Or something like that…)

In the end, how to describer something which is so exhilarating, both physically and mentally? And having to try avoiding spoliers to ensure that the reader’s enjoyment is on the same level as the reviewer’s? So we’ll call it quites right now to ensure all playgoers are in for an evening full of delightful surprises. Yet again, a wonderful opening to the new Everyman Payhouse season – a classic indeed.


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