Out of town: The Talent Mr Ripley – Review

The Royal & Derngate Northampton’s latest production is a Phyllis Nagy reworking of Patricia Highsmith’s dark 50s novel The Talented Mr Ripley, famously turned into a film by the late Anthony Minghella.

Michelle Ryan and Sam Heughan in The Talented Mr Ripley
Michelle Ryan and Sam Heughan in The Talented Mr Ripley. Photo: Robert Day

The film served her book well, but watching this intelligent and powerful adaptation makes you realise how much more dark angst and psychological twisting and turning lies in this strange story. The key to Raz Shaw’s revival is a very talented cast; Matt Damon, who played the title role of Tom Ripley in the movie, was essentially miscast compared to Kyle Soller in the play. Soller gives nothing short of a powerhouse performance as eerie, dark and hugely magnetic Tom.

And it’s this magnetism that holds this period story together. A story about a troubled young social parasite, Tom Ripley, who is commissioned by a rich New York couple to journey to Italy to persuade their son, Richard Greenleaf, to return, but who turns to murder to fuel his ambition and deception.

You could argue it’s a pretty homophobic little tale: the gay man as twisted, deceiving, clever, talented, vain and arrogant serial killer. Ripley is talented in all the wrong ways, using a gay person’s creativity and charm as a mask for evil and wrongdoing. But in Nagy’s play it is hard to hate Tom Ripley, as we revel in his ability to outwit and beguile, despite his deadly deeds.

A strong supporting cast is led by the gorgeous pairing of Sam Heughan as Richard Greenleaf and Michelle Ryan as Marge Sherwood, with Miranda Foster in the dual roles of Emily Greenleaf and Tom’s aunt Dottie standing out for her beautiful comic timing.

For all the play’s casting success, the production felt a little inconsistent in places, particularly through direction and design. Elements of modern dance, back projection, overlapping scenes, freeze frame, slow motion, realism and expressionism are all shoved in there, together with a set that looks less 1950s Italy than 1970s Blackpool.
But it’s worth the ticket for Kyle Soller alone.

Royal & Derngate Northampton

PAUL RAVEN.


Date: 24 September 2010
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1 thought on “Out of town: The Talent Mr Ripley – Review”

  1. As a huge fan of the Highsmith novels and as someone who was so disappointed and let down by the Minghella movie, I approached this show with trepidation, if not dread.

    I needn’t have worried. This is an adaptation and a production that not only does justice to Ms Highsmith but takes it much further and brings us a breathless evening of suspense, beauty, intrigue and emotional highs and lows that make the term thriller seem somewhat redundant.

    The director Raz Shaw has put together an astonishing cast who turn their hands at a host of rich characters led by the astonishing trio of Sam Heughan as the ‘innocent’ Rickie Greenleaf, Michelle Ryan as the ballsy Marge and the incredible Kyle Soller who makes Ripley the most charming psychopath you are ever likely to see. So charming that you find yourself routing for him in the second half. But all the actors deserve a mention. There is no weak link and the accents are all spot on.

    A special mention has to go to the breathtakingly beautiful design by Hannah Clark ( a hint of Hopper coupled with an amazingly claustrophobic, almost Lynchian surreal second half where you felt trapped in Ripley’s mind amidst the beautiful Gold Lame curtain settings. The lighting in the final scene between Aunt Dottie and Tom is so wonderfully evocative of what must be going through Tom’s mind.The Hitchcockian type music also sent chills up my spine. Which I guess is the point!!

    All in all a wonderful evening in the theatre. Complex. sexy, challenging and breathtaking and all consuming. It deserves a transfer.

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