Tale of two reviews: young critics on Monte Cristo play

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Would-be young reviewers in the district’s schools are being mentored by Harrogate Theatre and the Harrogate Advertiser in an exciting new Young Reviewers scheme, writes Graham Chalmers. Helmed by the theatre’s education workshop leader, Hannah Draper, their latest assigment - The Count of Monte Cristo, proved controversial. So tricky was it to pick a single winner, we opted to choose the best two. The reviews by students Rupert Hatton and Mercedes Jaskolka printed below may be diametrically opposed but that’s the nature of reviews.

Review by student Rupert Hatton

The Count of Monte Cristo, Harrogate Theatre.

Thunder Road’s adaptation of Alexandre Dumas’ novel The Count of Monte Cristo proves disappointing in many respects.

An interesting plot twist explores the theme of revenge in a tale about Edmond Dantes, a man locked away for a crime which he did not commit, but the execution of the story is unfortunately confusing and consequently rather dull.

The lighting effects in the opening moments, combined with a sequence of short acting frames, is evidently designed to emphasise the severe boredom and devastation caused by lifelong imprisonment.

However, as a consequence of the somewhat slow transitions any excitement at the start of the production vanishes, and a potentially interesting and engaging start to the play has little impact.

Unfortunately, Thunder Road fails to immerse the audience within this dark tale simply because of the puzzling storyline, which is vastly over-complicated meaning any poignant or important messages were lost on the confused audience.

Despite the dull introduction, this challenging production is presented well by both actors.

A convincing and amusing performance from actor Alex Moran was the highlight of the production.

Playing a variety of cameo roles, he regains audience enthusiasm, although he is unable to save the confusing and uninspiring first act. Fellow actor Scott Hodgson also impressed with his well considered portrayal of the troubled prisoner, especially in the later stages of the production when it could be considered thought-provoking.

Since becoming an associate company of Harrogate Theatre this is Thunder Road’s first production.

It seems this ambitious text has proven too challenging for the company, although the potential is most definitely there to create a show more exciting than this disappointment.

Review by student Mercedes Jaskolka

The Count of Monte Cristo, Harrogate Theatre.

Sharp and intense, captivating and thought-provoking, The Count of Monte Cristo, directed by Terence Mann, has you chained to the story as soon as you take your seat.

Based on the original 1844 epic novel by Alexandre Dumas, 944 pages are condensed into a 90-minute exploration of the human psyche. Greeted with low stormy sounds of a troubled, groaning sea, the audience is engulfed by the all-consuming power and depth of the play from the beginning. In his cell in the Chateau D’if, young and desperate sailor Edmond Dantes (Scott Hodgson) fights with his solitude and sanity to understand the actions of his past oppressors and seek vengeance on them.

Aided by his subconscious mind, the second act sees him take revenge upon the next prisoner (Alex Moran) through mental and physical torture.

Stylistically simple in set and design with a paradoxically sharp and complex story line, it is easy for the audience to submerge themselves in the dark exploration of love, vengeance, and death.

Boundaries are blurred between the audience and the actors, and you will begin to live and experience the pain and suffering of the two protagonists for 90 compelling minutes, and reflect on your own morality – or lack thereof.

The audience experience mimics that of the characters onstage.

Performed in Harrogate Studio Theatre, you are boxed into a small room, where the action overpowers you, and you really feel every emotion, wail, and cry of the cast.

The Count of Monte Cristo is an enthralling and hypnotising execution of Dumas’ most famous piece of work and is not to be missed.