WHEN Wilkie Collins’ novel was published in 1859, it caused huge excitement on the literary scene.
He outsold his contemporary and friend Charles Dickens in both London and New York, and the book remains just as popular today as it has been throughout the last century and more (it was voted 23rd in a recent list of the top 100 novels of all time).
It is a classic Victorian thriller, which begins when handsome art teacher Walter Hartright is assailed by a woman in white on a London road at midnight, who pleads for help to prevent her being taken to an asylum.
Such is the scale and depth of the novel, it is difficult to capture the full drama on stage and is perhaps why this adaptation didn’t quite hit the right notes all of the time.
First the positives. Colin Baker, one-time Dr Who, is brilliant as the evil Count Fosco. He doesn’t enter proceedings until after the first interval (there are three acts, two intervals) but immediately lights up the stage.
Glynn Sweet excelled as the good-hearted Vincent Gilmore, while Nicola Weeks was impressive as the determined Marian Holcombe.
On the downside the pace is too ponderous, and the script not as dramatic as it should have been. Three 45-minute acts make it a bit of an endurance test.
But that’s not to say it isn’t worth seeing. Baker alone is worth the ticket price, and some of the best bits of the novel are well reproduced.
*Runs nightly (7.30pm) until Thursday. Matinee performances (2pm) tomorrow and Thursday.