Lolita laps it all up

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Lolita Tuesday – Saturday OFS After a turbulent run at this summer’s Edinburgh Fringe, Aidan Elliott will attempt to reincarnate his fiery stage adaptation of Nabokov’s novel in the Old Fire Station. Many of the Edinburgh cast are replaced for the Oxford shows, including Thom Glover as Lolita’s older man, Humbert. Significantly, however, Katherine Flaherty remains in the title role. Her performance alone justifies this rerun. From the moment she minces on to the stage, she grabs the audience’s attention with a gentle, playful caress. She is perfectly cast; slim, tiny, but most of all, child-like. Her mannerisms are painstakingly observed, sometimes so realistic that she demands attention to an embarrassing degree. Yet the dynamic between her and Humbert can be somewhat lacking; their relationship at times too crude, too comical to seem genuine. Nevertheless, the script based on Nabokov’s 1961 screenplay is measured and elusive. Despite the notoriety of the plot, Elliott still manages to make the consummation of Lolita and Humbert’s love a surprise. The coupling scene is treated with subtle poise; the darkened stage dulls the jarring impropriety of the nymphet astride the middleaged man, lending it a sensitivity that was missing in other scenes. Whilst the loss of Glover can be overcome, it will be a shame not to see again Basher Savage as the enigmatically devious Quilty. His difficult monologues were brilliantly handled; his timing of the unspoken replies eked out the sense from the silence. The Edinburgh critics applauded Elliott’s adherence to Nabokov’s narrative technique, placing the audience under the auspices of Humbert’s psychologist. Yet as the play’s sordid reality is unravelled, the production begins to lose its credo; Humbert’s mind is obviously deranged, but so is earlier the balance in the script. Once the fall has begun, the lasciviousness of Humbert and Quilty is too graphic. Elliot is wrong to find it necessary to follow Kubrick’s cinematics here; intimation would have been more effective than the brightly lit full frontal orgy. But despite its shortcomings and inalienable tendency to shock, this production is still an amiable vehicle for the voracious talent of Flaherty in the title role.ARCHIVE: 0th Week MT2003 

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