Tag Archives: Adam Howden

“The Talented Mr. Ripley” at the New Diorama Theatre

The Talented Mr. Ripley is 60 years old. Continually popular, Patricia Highsmith’s superb novel has now been brought to the stage by The Faction Company. The work of director Mark Leipacher, this is a sterling adaptation, focused on Tom Ripley’s inner life, exploring his murderous adoption of Dickie Greenleaf’s identity, and dramatising his spiraling actions in thrilling fashion. It’s a respectful affair, arguably slightly too long, but eminently theatrical. Ripley wanted to be an actor after all and he’s a consummate performer – continually adapting roles and using fantasy to project himself into other lives – it makes sense to see him on stage.

Adam Howden as Dickie Greenleaf

Leipacher’s direction is bold and inventive. A bare, square, raised platform with a pit at its centre is superbly lit by Chris Withers and serves as a base for the cast to perform on, around and under. Scenes are ‘cut’ and restaged, a neat disorientation device taking us inside Ripley’s fraught imagination and adding tension. The Faction make for a strong ensemble with Adam Howden suitably charismatic as the wealthy Greenleaf heir and Christopher Tester sternly convincing as his father (in spite of being too young for the role). There’s also a subtle performance from Natasha Rickman as Dickie’s girlfriend, Marge.

The script emphasizes Ripley’s insecurities. A fair choice: Ripley is one of those fictional characters complex enough to merit varied interpretations. Like Matt Damon in Anthony Minghella’s 1999 film, this Tom feels inferior, “incompetent” even, far from Highsmith’s accomplished anti-hero. And in this demanding title role, Christopher Hughes is fantastic, delivering the complex plot and emotions with dynamism and a fitting shrillness. He is particularly strong when evoking Ripley’s paranoia, making the most of the venue’s intimacy. One of the joys of a fringe show is seeing an actor destined for big success: I have no doubt we will see a lot more of the talented Mr. Hughes.

Until 28 February 2015


Photos by Richard Davenport

“The Malcontent” at the White Bear Theatre

The Malcontent is a Jacobean revenge drama by John Marston. It could easily be a dry text, of mainly academic interest, but is handled as a thriller by the Custom/Practice Company at Kennington’s White Bear Theatre. In just 90 minutes improbable plot twists and court intrigues are rocketed through, making the play engaging and entertaining.

Marston’s Malcontent, Malevole by name, just to make things clear, is a divided character, appropriate since he is really a disguised Duke residing at his rival’s court. Parading as “more discontent than Lucifer”, his “fetterless” tongue is allowed licence at court just as a fool would be in Shakespeare, and he sets out to cause trouble and expose hypocrisy. It’s just a shame that he ends up being a bit wet. Adam Howden gives the role his very best – flamboyant as the cynic and convincing as the dashing Duke. And Howden isn’t the only talent that the casting directors present on the evening I attended should take note of.

The production does suffer from a common fringe complaint – a uniformly young cast. Although it is cruel to pick out one example, you couldn’t encounter a less likely candidate for gout than the slender Richard Kiess. It’s jarring: yet his is a fine performance that shows commendable comic skills. Lorenzo Martelli plays the new Duke fluently and there is a startling performance from Shanaya Rafaat as Maquerelle, a lady-in-waiting who serves the court’s vice needs, arranging assignations and lusting after bodies and money herself. Rafaat is spirited and riveting.

Accolades must also go to Rae McKen, whose direction is a force to be reckoned with. Clearly undaunted by the language, she presents the plot with admirable clarity, skilfully avoiding the play’s pitfalls, including its occasionally pious tones – this sexy, pacy production really grips you.

Until 11 December 2011


Written 26 November 2011 for The London Magazine