The hit West End comedy with its unforgettable characters from the landmark novel and Oscar-winning film are brought to life on the stage of Cardiff’s, New Theatre.
Based on the novel by Charles Webb and the 1968 film, it concerns Mrs Robinson’s played by Catherine McCormack, seduction of young middle class rebel without a cause character Benjamin Braddock, played by Jack Monaghan. Who is struggling to come to terms with his future, worrying that his family expect too much from him, and feels thoroughly disillusioned. However, when seduced by long-term family friend the sensational Mrs Robinson his boredom takes a new direction. And when he has a date with Mrs Robinson’s daughter Elaine, he finally finds some meaning to his life, a meaning that Mrs Robinson opposes!
There is no denying that since it was first written and later immortalised on the big screen the world has drastically changed, which is reflected both in Terry Jonson’s adaptation and Lucy Bailey’s direction of the story for the stage. In no way does it shy away from the prejudices of that time, and in doing so gives the audience a sense of progress that we as a society have made in regards to sexism. Yet at the same time it gives you pause for thought in relation to how little progress we’ve made in some areas too – especially our ability to communicate with those around us. This theme in the play gives a great sense of amusement and laughter for the audience, especially when touching on the idea of a ‘generation gap’ in scenes between Ben and his Dad. As well as a much-needed sense of relevance, as we now live in a world where such dalliances have become the norm albeit not always outwardly accepted by those around us. Yet the idea that young people see a different future to their parents, but struggle to communicate that future, is still very much relevant albeit not as new as it was in the 60s.
However, to pull off Charles Webb’s original novel, which is a thing of beauty, takes a cast of supreme talent to pull it off. Unfortunately on this occasion, Bailey has failed to assemble such a cast; there was a lack of chemistry between the two leads and the attempt to bring emotional ballast to the piece in the second half by bulking up the role of Mrs Robinson’s daughter, Elaine, played by Emma Curtis. Turned The Graduate from being a dark, funny and beautiful satire of suburbia into a thin story about a kid who feels unsatisfied with his life, chucks his chances away and emerges relatively unscathed at the end.