Transposing famous novels to the stage presents particular challenges, not least satisfying the expectations of the book’s fans. But adapting Hemingway’s first novel to the Trafalgar’s tiny studio, and in the process attempting to evoke bohemian Paris, the blood rush of bull-fighting in Spain and the doomed human triangle consisting of American journalist Jake Barnes, his English lover Lady Ashley and Jake’s fellow American expat, chippy Jewish novelist Robert Cohn— well, that is about as crazy an idea as bull-running in Pamplona.
Yet with the help of the mood-setting strains of jazz threesome Trio Farouche, writer/director Alex Helfrecht has turned the book into a terrific piece of theatre. The bull-fighting is viscerally evoked with the role of the animal played by the least likely cast member, willowy Josie Taylor, who temporarily drops out of her main character, the sexually provocative Lady Ashley. And Jack Holden’s matador has all the moves.
Rachel Noel’s design featuring wine-filled glasses hanging over the stage, cleverly evokes Hemingway’s alcohol-fuelled narrative, and a terrific Gideon Turner as tormented war veteran Jake leads four committed performances. Most importantly, it all boils down to some fine storytelling told with a muscularity that does Hemingway justice.(www.fiestawestend.com)