Edinburgh Fringe 2009
Venue: The Spaces at Royal College of Surgeons
Festival: Edinburgh Fringe
The cast bring great enthusiasm and some talent to a version of Defoe’s novel that is a little too respectful to the original. The successes of the production are due to the skill of several of the cast while the failures go back to the faults of the novel which a stronger adaptation should have sorted out.
: The play opens with a superb tableau of the cast frozen into a living sculpture in which the fine costumes contribute to make a striking effect. The whole cast stays on stage throughout to act as a chorus or to take on successive roles.
The frequent regroupings and switches of role by the actors give the piece an element of excitement that is infectious, though the pace could be tightened up. Susie King is excellent in the title role and the other big parts are mostly well done. The story of Moll’s life – even drastically abridged – is not short of surprising and melodramatic events.
She is adopted, seduced, abandoned. She marries and finds that fate has played her a horrible trick. She falls in love with a highwayman, becomes a thief, is nearly hanged, and so on. On that level the play is entertaining enough. The problem is that, as in the novel, Molly is not a character one can identify with. She makes few choices and is the passive victim of circumstances.
Since the adaptation, which is by Peter Machen, has not found a way to make Moll a figure about whose inner life the audience can care, the production needs to make the story of what happens to her bounce along with more wit and more changes of tone and pace. The sudden reversals of fortune or outrageous coincidences could be played for laughs and that might allow the moments of pathos to be touching.