Captain Corelli’s Mandolin

Birmingham Rep


Louis De Bernières’ novel tells the story of love in war and is set on a Greek island at the time of German and Italian occupation and we see the lives of soldiers and islanders change as war takes precedence.

Bernières’ novel was adapted into a film in 2001, with Nicholas Cage taking the title role. On the stage, the story is adapted by Rona Munro and directed by Melly Still. It brings new dimensions to the passionate and heart-breaking romantic story.

The play, like the book, is set on the Cephalonia. Young Pelagia is happy to tend to her garden and lovingly look after the pet goat. Her father, Dr Iannis, leads a respectable lifestyle helping the community. When the handsome man Mandras needs medical attention from Dr Iannis, a spark of love between the young pair quickly ignites and the two become engaged.

The dark cloak of war descends rapidly and Pelagia is left heartbroken when Mandras does not return letters written to him each day. When Italian troops occupy Cephalonia, Captain Corelli, a soldier and a musician, sets his base at Dr Iannis and Pelagia’s home. The distance between Pelagia and her fiancé gets bigger each day and yet the curiosity for the Italian Captain becomes stronger. Eventually Pelagia and Captain Corelli discover that they are in love.

The talented cast are fantastic in leading the multidimensional story. Madison Clare carries the lead of Pelagia with great maturity. The excitable relationship between Pelagia and her first lover, Mandras (Ashley Galyle), is an enticing element to the first half of the production. Gayle is also superbly charming and a great fit for the role.


Madison Clare as Pelagia and Alex Mugnaioni as Captain Corelli. Pictures: Marc Brenner

Alex Mugnaioni plays Captain Corelli and performs the wistful character excellently. His energetic aspirations in younger life are romantically presented, and he has a natural portrayal of the man we see again after fifty years.

There is indeed a focus on multiple subplots within the story, adding to the intricate dynamics of the world of Cephalonia. Each subplot is framed beautifully by the strong cast. Amongst the backdrop of war, Italian soldiers Carlo, played by Ryan Donaldson, and Francesco, played by Fred Fergus, only declare their love for each other at the very point of death. This touching account is made strong with a directorial hand by Still which make the audience unaware of their romantic love until the point of it being too late. The powers of love and death seen simultaneously, and their declarations of love become the most poignant moment of the production.

The company certainly make this production great, including Joseph Long’s portrayal as Dr Iannis, the expert acrobatics from Elizabeth Mary Williams as Psipsina and the animalistic qualities made strong by Lisa Guerreiro. It is also the production’s stagecraft which gives the popular story new depths and allows the audience to see organic emotional moments scattered in each and every scene.

Mayou Trikerioti’s set carries interesting technical elements which enhance the senses. In the background we see a structure of golden squares, alluding to the crumpled letters written by Pelagia over the years to Mandras. There are bold and jarring flashes of light with booming sounds to make the audience constantly aware of the brevity of war at the time in which the story is set.

The choral voices of the company are also a stunning layer which only enhances the emotional themes of the tragic story, and yet, there are always choral elements to show small glimmers of hope.

It is an enticingly empathetic production and readers of the novel will see enhanced details of de Bernières’ novel with new creativity. It is lengthy, but the multi-talented company keep us in safe hands. To 15-06-19.

Elizabeth Halpin


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