A Tale of Two Cities

The Alhambra

THE stage of the Alhambra Theatre was transformed into both revolutionary France and the streets of London as Charles Dickens’ Tale Of Two Cities opened a five-night run in Bradford last night.

Adapted for the stage by Mike Poulton and directed by James Dacre, the play successfully manages to bring one of Dickens’ most ambitious and acclaimed novels to life.

The production also manages to make some of the story’s main themes, of political upheaval, tension between classes and entitlement, just as relevant as they were when the novel was written over 150 years ago.

Telling a story of two men, one a French aristocrat who has disowned his title and another an alcoholic lawyer, who love the same woman, a tale of two cities looks at what shapes a person’s character, as well as acting as look at one of European history’s most turbulent periods.

The cast are easily up to the task of bringing the epic tale to the stage. Although Dickens’ was not noted for his fully rounded characters, they bring life and as much depth as possible to their roles.

Joseph Timms successfully portrays Sydney Carton as an at times sinister character, a pathetic character and ultimately a heroic and noble one.

And Jacob Ifan adds enough to his Charles Darnay to make him a hero the audience can get behind, instead of the flat character that might have been portrayed by a lesser actor.

Some of the criticisms that are regularly levelled at Dickens are still present here. Parts of the plot rely far too much on coincidence, and despite the action being set in two huge cities, both London and Paris can seem like a small village where everyone knows each other.

But the play is so well staged and acted that these criticisms soon melt away. Having to re-create two major cities and multiple locations on a single stage means the play makes the best possible use of lighting and a creative set designs to bring the different locations, from courthouses to prisons to London bars, to life.

Adapting a Dickens novel, especially A Tale of Two Cities, as a play could prove a difficult task, but this production makes it seem like the story had always been intended for the stage.

Runs until Saturday.