Ferrante fever will reignite as the stage adaptation comes to the National Theatre's Olivier stage after a sell-out opening at the Rose Theatre, Kingston in 2017. Director Melly Still reworks the production for the 2019 run.
The best-selling books captivated a world-wide readership who became lost in Ferrante's vivid descriptions of trust, tension and devotion between heroines Elena (Lenù) and Raffaella (Lila). They have since been adapted into a TV miniseries along with a two-part stage epic.
Playwright April De Angelis (Jumpy, 2012, After Electra, 2014) condenses all four novels (about 1,600 pages) into a double bill stretching over five hours.
The story is narrated by Lenù and follows her and her friend Lila from their 1950s childhood deep into adulthood, as they struggle to escape the confines of their working-class upbringing in a deprived district of Naples. It is a Bildungsroman of epic proportions, tracking the complicated relationship between the friends over 60 years as they face male oppression, the rigid class system, gang intrigue and the changing social landscape of post-war Italy.
Part one consists of the first two novels in the series, My Brilliant Friend and The Story of a New Name. Punctuated by interludes of Purcell's Dido and Aeneas, it tells of the friendship of Lenù (Niamh Cusack) and Lila (Catherine McCormack) from childhood in the context of their adverse circumstances.
For part two we leave Purcell for Jimi Hendrix and Cyndi Lauper, to demonstrate changing tides. The titles of the next instalments –Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay and The Story of the Lost Child – slightly give the game away; tragedy is a staple of this part of the tale.
The cast of 12, who reprise their roles from the 2017 run, switch between multiple roles to play 32 characters. Visually, the transition from page to stage was sleek, with rusty balustrades and tall balconies bringing the feel of mid-20th-century Naples to the Rose Theatre stage. Soutra Gilmour will adapt her set designs and costumes for the Olivier.
Public booking for My Brilliant Friend at the National Theatre opens at 8:30am on Friday 5 July
|What||My Brilliant Friend, National Theatre|
|Where||National Theatre, South Bank, London, SE1 9PX | MAP|
|Nearest tube||Waterloo (underground)|
12 Nov 19 – 31 Jan 20, From 12 November
|Price||£15 - £85|
|Website||Click here for more information and tickets|