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REVIEW: Captain Corelli’s Mandolin at Newcastle Theatre Royal

Captain Corelli’s Mandolin
Newcastle Theatre Royal
Tuesday 21st – Saturday 25th May 2019

Alex Mugnaioni as Captain Corelli & Elizabeth Mary Williams as Psipsina
Ashley Gayle as Mandras & Madison Clare as Pelagia
Captain Corelli's Mandolin, the 1994 novel by the British writer Louis de Bernières, has been adapted for stage by Rona Munro and appears at Newcastle’s Theatre Royal this week. The story, which is set on the Greek island of Cephalonia during the Italian and German occupation of the Second World War, is a powerful love story. A tight cast and a effective set help deliver this popular tale.

LtoR front, Ashley Gale as Mandras & Madison Clare as Pelagia (seated)
The tale begins with the local doctor, Dr Iannis (Joseph Long) sorting local fisherman Mandras (Ashley Gayle) out with removal of some shrapnel. It is clear from the off that this is convenient for him as he is interested in the doctors daughter Pelagia (Madison Clare). Their relationship quickly blossoms but the war raging elsewhere in Europe finally arrives in Greece. Mandras decides to fight leaving Pelagia to write daily to him. Greece capitulates and a mixture of Italians and German are posted on the island. These invaders become the unwanted house guests of the islanders. One, Captain Corelli (Alex Mugnaioni), carrying his mandolin, moves in with the doctor and his daughter.

Ryan Donaldson as Carlo & Fred Fergus as Francesco
The islanders are in conflict with the invading force who reduce their food supply. Meanwhile, the captain enjoys impromptu musical performances amongst his men. The result is a play  that looks at a number of love stories: between people and pets, between couples and between men in conflict. Add in the nationalistic love for ones country and the need to survive and you have a complex mix. Fortunately, this production keeps the storyline fairly streamlined and easy to follow. Some of the cast of 15 have multiple roles but it is easy to spot who they are by the outfits and uniforms.
The company of Captain Corelli's Mandolin
Luisa Guerreiro as Goat in Captain Corelli's Mandolin
What sets this show apart is the setting which is cleverly captured. In addition to 2 metallic plates, onto which projections reinforce the story, we also have numerous villagers and animals. Having 2 humans acting as a goat and a pine martin really worked well at animating the interaction between humans and animals. In addition, the bell of the goat added to the overall soundscape which was a really nice touch.

Melly Still’s direction keeps the story flowing at a fair pace. The years are flying by but it still made sense.  The combination of lighting design (Malcolm Rippeth), movement (George Siena) and sound (Jon Nicholls) helps the tension during the battles and skirmishes.

The company of Captain Corelli's Mandolin

Joseph Long as Dr Iannis
I should, at this stage, confess that I have never read the book nor seen the movie so I am just taking this production on its own merit.  It is a very good drama about a painful chapter of European history. It is also successful, though the excellent ensemble cast, at showing the strength of people through adverse situations. The best in people can come through in tough times – even if it is stopping the snails escaping when you’re lacking protein in your diet.

Captain Corelli’s Mandolin is a fine drama with a great cast. The play is well worth seeing and I now fancy checking the book out.
The company of Captain Corelli's Mandolin
Review by Stephen Oliver
Photos: Marc Bremmer

Tickets from £16.00 can be purchased from the Theatre Royal Box Office on 08448 11 21 21 (Calls cost 7ppm plus your phone company’s access charge) or book online at

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