Having inspired the hit 2001 film, Louis De Bernières’ best-selling novel has swept audiences off their feet once again as the theatrical production of Captain Corelli’s Mandolin arrived at Newcastle Theatre Royal earlier this week.
Alex Mugnaioni epitomised the irrepressible optimism and charisma of the title character, while Madison Clare shone as his love interest: the smart, inquisitive and charmingly rough-around-the-edges Pelagia.
A stand-out performance came from Ryan Donaldson, who played Captain Correlli’s sergeant, Carlo, with heart-wrenching honesty, and Joseph Long’s portrayal of Dr Iannis personified the humour, wit, wisdom and self-sacrificing love of Pelagia’s father. One cannot write an honest review of the show, however, without special mention of Luisa Guerreiro’s embodiment of the family’s goat, which was sensational – hilarious, affectionate and, in her movements, startlingly life-like.
Captain Corelli’s Mandolin is an epic love story set on the Greek island of Cephalonia. It follows the lives of Dr Iannis, his beautiful, strong-willed daughter Pelagia and the Italian Captain Antonio Corelli during the Italian and German occupation of the island in the Second World War.
Louis de Bernières won the 1995 Commonwealth Writers’ Prize – Overall Winner for Best Book for his novel, as well as the 1995 Lannan Literary Award for Fiction, and the 1994 Sunday Express Book of the Year. In 2001, the story was adapted into a blockbuster film starring Nicolas Cage and Penélope Cruz.
Directed by Olivier and Tony Award nominee Melly Still, and adapted by Evening Standard Award winner and Golden Globe and BAFTA Award nominee Rona Munro, the 2019 stage production marks 25 years since the book was first published.
Mayou Trikerioti’s set and costume designs – together with lighting design by Malcolm Rippeth, sound design by Jon Nicholls and projection design by Dom Baker – were inventively used by the cast to convey everything from stolen moments of magic to the German invasion, with tanks roaring and bombs blasting, and brought to life the haunting memories of the dead rising from the frozen mountain tops of Albania, as the surviving soldiers made their way back to Cephalonia.
Leaving its audience sometimes tearful, often hopeful, and always thoroughly entertained, Captain Correlli’s Mandolin was a testament to the reputation of true dramatic excellence that Newcastle’s Theatre Royal continues to cultivate. We can’t wait to see what’s next.