Captain Corelli’s Mandolin
Adapted by: Rona Munro
Directed by: Ewen Coleman and Stanford Reynolds
Gryphon Theatre, 31st Mar 2021
Reviewed by: Alessia Belsito-Riera
A truly charming rendition of Louis de Bernières’ novel, Captain Corelli’s Mandolin is well worth a watch. The show hits the mark and skillfully paints the story of star-crossed lovers Antonio Corelli (Jonny Marshall) and Pelagia (Ava Wiszniewska) amid a war-stricken community, ravaged but not destroyed.
The entire cast is extremely talented, navigating Greek, Italian, and German accents and language with great professionalism. Emotions are raw and heavy, especially for Wiszniewska and Richard Corney (playing Mandras), who navigate the tragedy of war as well as first love with expert balance. Georgia Davenport (the goat) and Gilbert Levack (Psipsina the pine marten) brilliantly add a second layer of humanity, suspending disbelief of their real human form and becoming their animal counterparts. Alister Williams (Iannis), however, steals the show. As father, doctor, and romantic, Williams’ performance shows true experience, authenticity, tenderness, and genuine love for his daughter, his community, and his beloved Cephalonia.
The show has a complex timeline and geography, spanning over 50 years and multiple countries. Theo Wijnsma’s minimal set masterfully brings Captain Corelli’s Mandolin to life, each location distinct yet ultimately connected. The backdrop consists of three staired levels which span the length of the stage, moulding mountains, battles, cliff faces, bramble patches, town squares, and barracks. These stairs are also mobile, enabling an extremely convincing earthquake effect. Downstage left sits Iannis and Pelagia’s front stoop and kitchen table, ever-present throughout the story, making the world of Cephalonia titular and stable despite the constant changes around it.
Captain Corelli’s Mandolin is a beautiful and complex novel, and no small feat to bring to the stage. Wellington Repertory Theatre’s rendition expertly captures the story’s essence, sincerely portraying many forms of love and relationships against the backdrop of war and tragedy. In a world with so much human cruelty and horror, Captain Corelli’s Mandolin shows that beside, or perhaps behind it, will always flourish human love.