Freelance journalist with a passion for theatre, the arts, food and books.
Sexy Stage Play Of Classic Story
This well-loved coming-of-age tale became renowned for spawning the ultimate 'cougar' in the seductive shape of Mrs Robinson via the famous film starring Dustin Hoffman and Anne Bancroft. Now it's back with a stage refresh.
With its success in mind, director Lucy Bailey has taken a brave step in reviving a production that adds its own interpretation of the story by Charles Webb. Some may remember hearing about this show when the original production premiered in the West End back in 2000 as it starred Kathleen Turner in the role of Mrs Robinson
This stage version of The Graduate is a co-production with The Curve in Leicester and West Yorkshire Playhouse that I caught at Malvern Theatres, near the end of its UK tour. It stays there until June 17 and continues to Cardiff.
Revolving around young college graduate Benjamin, the plot sees him seduced by an older woman and then fall in love with her daughter.
This version of The Graduate is intensely seductive yet also packed with laughs. Sultry Catherine McCormack steals the show as alcoholic Mrs Robinson. She's obviously a fine actress who plays her with bitterness and regret and audiences will recognise her from movie roles including as Murron MacClannough in Braveheart and films including Northstar and Dangerous Beauty.
McCormack makes Mrs Robinson a queen of manipulation and seductiveness yet also with an air of desperation. An early scene where she takes off her bra and bares herself to Benjamin is unsettling but for the right reasons as it really hits home how far this woman will go.
A huge video scene creates a sensual backdrop
Jack Monaghan plays opposite her as Benjamin and reflects the nerdiness that came through from Hoffman in the movie. But he's also portrayed much more as an eccentric academic who feels like an outsider.
Monaghan holds his own throughout but then he has starred in theatre shows like the record-breaking West End production of War Horse, as well as featuring in Charlie Brooker's Black Mirror and Richard Curtis' film About Time.
Catherine McCormack steals the show as Mrs Robinson
The whole cast is strong and includes Emma Curtis playing Elaine, Tom Hodgkins as Mr Braddock, Rebecca Charles as Mrs Braddock and Richard Clothier playing Mr Robinson.
It adds to the sensuality with a huge cinema screen as a backdrop showing close-ups of lips and the women Benjamin is enraptured with.
Meanwhile his affair with the husky-voiced Mrs Robinson is spent tussling in and out of bed over one summer in bed scenes that are beautifully choreographed.
Although I found this production fresh. funny and modern - especially as Elaine's appeal was more about her optimism than her beauty - I know some members of the audience who loved the film felt a bit flat that it wasn't the same and didn't feature the famous Simon and Garfunkel music.
If you go with that in mind and are prepared for a new take on a timeless story that is sensual, artistic and at its core romantic, then you are bound to enjoy it.
The Graduate is on at Malvern Theatres until June 17 and continues on to Cardiff.