Friday 6 August 2010

The Good Soldier

Bath Theatre Royal's summer offering at the Ustinov - while the Main House is closed for a revamp - is Ford Madox Ford's The Good Soldier, based on a novel written just before the outbreak of the First World War. The story revolves around an American prude John Dowell and his flirtatious wife, Florence, and their friends Edward and Leonora Ashburnham, a British couple whom they met at a German spa resort.
The cast is excellent in a fine adaptation by Julian Mitchell that makes great use of the limited space in the Ustinov, with many of the actors playing several roles. Edward is a seemingly good soldier - outwardly - whose mix of extavagant unaffordable charity and serial philandering provides his long-suffering, but calculatingly cold wife Leonora - played superbly by Flora Montgomery -with a full-time job rescuing the family finances and saving her caddish husband from himself and his romantic urges.
The relationship with the Americans provides a backdrop for a longer series of flashbacks and revelations that are delivered with extraordinary energy and pace by the cast. But for all their exuberant enthusiasm - and a very fine adaptation - the story itself is ultimately unredemptive. Fine novel it may have been - and championed by Graham Greene - but one is left wondering after a dizzying two hours what it was all about, really.

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