A Tale of Two Cities: Blood for Blood is a rather different beast from Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities. This choppy, convoluted adaptation lacks the detail and finesse of the novel, though adds a lingering threat and gloom that hangs over this story of revenge and espionage that spans two countries. Though not specifically modernised, the set alludes to greater powers and constant obstacles, but dominates the production and interferes with the action. The script is initially confusing and takes time to settle, but the lost opportunity to capture attention from the start causes the production to never really find its feet.
The set is a baffling assemblage of chairs, with a sound desk commanding attention centre stage. There are a lot of chairs; the stage is literally filled with rows of them reminiscent of a large school room, with enough space in between for one person to cautiously pass. This slows movement to a sleepy pace that clashes with the story’s tension, and after the initial visual impact, they are largely unchanging.
Performances are of a good standard across the board with some excellent multi-rolling. The actors do well to keep a high level of vocal energy despite physical limitations caused by the chairs. The selective use of microphones adds distance and authority, though their inconsistent use is more of a muddled hindrance to the performers and themes in the story.
The story naturally has conflict that helps keep it going, but initial exposition doesn’t lay enough groundwork to create solidly increasing tension. With the reliance on text needed to compensate for the staging, its patchiness makes clashes between characters feel sudden and forced.
A Tale of Two Cities: Blood for Blood certainly has some interesting seeds of ideas, but the script needs smoothing and design needs to be re-thought so it helps the action rather than hinders it.
A Tale of Two Cities: Blood for Blood runs through 28th August.
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