Evans, who has written the script, has previously adapted 'The Tenant
of Wildfell Hall' which ran at the Playhouse in 2000. This production
will be Salisbury Playhouse's first independent touring show.
Rogers as Mary Yellan and Mark Jax as Joss Merlyn
Inn is an evocative and chilling tale set at the heart of the bleak
Bodmin Moor in Cornwall in the 1800s. When young Mary Yellan obeys
her Mother's dying wish and goes to live with her estranged aunt
and uncle in Jamaica Inn, she soon discovers mysterious goings on
in the dead of night and dark events taking place on the Cornish
coast. However, as she searches for the truth, she finds herself
witness to events more horrific than she ever could have imagined.
Duke as Francis Davey
production reunites the creative team that produced Howard Goodall
and Melvyn Bragg's musical The Hired Man at the Playhouse last year.
It is directed by Joanna Read, Artistic Director of Salisbury Playhouse,
designed by Su Houser, and has original sound, music and movement
designed by Matthew Bugg. Lighting is once again designed by Jim
Yellan is played by Laura Rogers, who played Bianca in Phyllida
Lloyd's production of The Taming of the Shrew at the Globe last
year. Her violent uncle, Joss Merlyn, is played by Mark Jax, last
seen at Salisbury Playhouse as Dr Marakov in Joanna Read's production
of Barbarians last year.
Rogers as Mary Yellan and Mark Jax as Joss Merlyn
is played by Marcello Watson whose credits include MacHeath in The
Beggars Opera at Bristol Old Vic and Tony in Beautiful Thing at
York Theatre Royal.
Davey is played by James Duke who was last seen at the Playhouse
in the role of Quine in Michael Frayn's Donkeys' Years in 2002.
cast is completed by Wiltshire born Lisa McNaught as the Narrator,
Sara Weymouth as Aunt Patience,
Chris Garner as Squire Bassat and Paul Mihell as Richard.
Read our review
tempting to rename this production 'Jamaica!", since Lisa Evans'
new adaptation of 'Jamaica Inn' leans towards the West End musical
rather than a good old-fashioned piece of melodrama.
production opens with a musical number sung by Mary Yellan's narrative
conscience, played by Lisa McNaught, and was a warning to anyone
expecting to see a faithful re-working of past productions that
this version of 'Jamaica Inn' was going to be different.
the actors developed their roles, it was soon evident that all the
players had been well cast.
Rogers' sensitive portrayal of Mary Yellan was perfect - her shock
of red hair complementing her poor, downtrodden and abused character.
wicked smuggler-uncle, Joss Merlyn, played by Mark Jax, was portrayed
as a suitably greasy rogue whose manner was beautifully reflected
in the way he wiped a piece of bread, which had fallen on the floor
butter-side down, on his sleeve - an action that produced a suitable
response from the audience!
anything, Mark Jax's portrayal could have been even larger-than-life
and perhaps a little more 'in your face', but nevertheless, you
couldn't help but dislike this obnoxious rogue - lovable he was
opening of Act One's third scene, however, managed to break the
spell that had been cast by the atmospheric opening to the play.
It was difficult to understand why it was necessary to have members
of the cast dressed as sheep (and later dogs, horses and chickens).
this point onwards, the production lost some credibility and talking
to people during the interval some said it reminded them of school
nativity plays where the little-ones dress up as sheep et al.
seems a shame that a tale as strong as Jamaica Inn should have to
resort to stylising such a great story in this way. It begs the
question: what is it trying to be? A musical? A melodrama? A piece
of 'new theatre'? May be all three?
it may be, but it's true to say that 'if it ain't broke don't fix
it' - and this applies to DuMaurier's 'Jamaica Inn'.
from this criticism, the production is well-worth a look particularly
for it atmospheric use of lighting, designed by Jim Simmons, and
its simple-but-effective set, created by Su Houser.
Houser's use of backdrops and drapes transformed the Playhouse stage
from the gloomy interior of Jamaica Inn to the wild, granite-strewn,
windswept moor with a simple, unobtrusive set change.
effective was the way furniture on the stage was draped in a large
sheet of white cloth and then lit carefully to create the boulders
of Bodmin Moor.
Buggs' score added to the mood, with traditional folk-led themes
mixed with discordant overtones. The score gave added dimension
to the production and, thankfully, didn't distract. Lisa McNaught's
strong vocal talent shone through and was delightful, although some
of the words of the countermeoldies were lost to the imagination.
me, Sara Weymouth's portrayal of Mary Yellan's Aunt Patience deserves
special comment; totally believable, suitably hysterical at times
and yet full of compassion towards her niece. Patience represents
the wife who lives-in-fear of her bullying husband and Sara Weymouth
played the part with absolute conviction.
there was something rather familiar in this new version of 'Jamaica
Inn'. After a few exchanges between Joss and Patience and Mary Yellan
it soon became apparent that the production had the characteristics
of an Eastenders' episode set in deepest, darkest 19th century Cornwall,
complete with misogynistic male misfits and weak, woeful women;
and this isn't at all surprising when you realise that Lisa Evans
is a script writer for the BBC's top soap!
a brave writer who takes a well-loved piece and brings it up-to-date
in some way and Lisa Evans has been brave certainly, but it's tempting
to urge her to re-consider some of those 'comic' animal moments
and get back to true heart of Jamaica Inn and its dark, foreboding
Thursday 29 April - Saturday 22 May
£8.50 - £17.00
further information and to book tickets, call the Box Office
on 01722 320333 or visit www.salisburyplayhouse.com.