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Review: Books, Theatre, Albums, Movies and Gigs

Kiss Of The Spider Woman

The Liverpool Playhouse
May 29 – June 2

Author: Manuel Puig
Director: Charlotte Westenera
Producer: Donmar
Cast includes: Rupert Evans, Will Keen
Running time: 2 hrs 20 mins

Image: Promo image for 'Kiss Of The Spider Woman'

Kiss Of The Spider Woman

Everyman Liverpool Playhouse official website

As a novel first published in 1976, then an Oscar-winning Hollywood film starring William Hurt and then a Broadway musical, this is Manuel Puig’s own stage adaptation, skilfully translated by Allan Baker.

Set in a cell at the Villa Devoto prison in Buenos Aires during the decade of the disappearances, the play shows the developing relationship of political activist Valentin with his homosexual cell mate, Molina, who during the long hours of the night “escapes” his captivity by recounting the plot of his favourite film, Cat People, with vividly colourful descriptions of what is a nineteen-thirties black and white film noir. Throughout the play the duo’s on-stage relationship develops at a more personal level, until all barriers break down and mutual trust and understanding shines briefly through.

Will Keen is the steadfast rock of the performance, as he rolls he his eyes, flicks his wrists and squeals in high-camp delight at some exciting plot twist of the movie, yet is tender and caring towards his fellow captive in a way that can only be described as maternal, seeking nothing more in return than friendship and respect. Molina is as camp as they come – dressing in his pink robe and support stockings – but in Keen’s hands, never becomes a Clary-esque cliché.

Rupert Evans as Valentin is equally as strong in his role, changing from a man of high morals and crystal clear ideals, to one who is confused about his sense of self-worth and meaning, without ever becoming so angst riddled that he becomes dull. Indeed, some of the play’s more poignant moments come when Keen can be heard off-stage on voiceover, whilst Evans is left behind to display Valentin’s thought processes to the maximum effect.
Beautifully staged, with a backdrop of bars and sliding gates interspersed with evocative lighting, if anything Charlotte Westenera has created a touring production that is even more atmospheric than that which was recently staged at The Donmar Warehouse in London. Though perhaps some of the intimacy of that particular performance is lost, the same cannot be said of the power of the performances from the two actors, as they strive to find their own brands of freedom in whichever way they can.

Liverpool Playhouse May 29 – June 2. Bristol Old Vic June 5 – June 9
The Lowry, Salford, June 12 – June 16

Everyman Liverpool Playhouse official website



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“Writing gets me away for a while' from this world and into one where I, alone, can make or
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