DH Lawrence’s story of love across the social divide is best known for its infamous ban for obscenity, but it is much more than that, as this adaptation by Roman de Fruscan proved.
Constance (Emily Summers) and Clifford (Tom Synott-Bell) Chatterley are newly married when he goes to war and comes back horrifically injured and reliant on his wife, staff and wheelchair to live some of the semblence of life that he had before.
Some things are allowed to remain however, such as the seeming unending round of parties he puts on where masked actors pontificate on the class war, and how men and women relate to each other in a society which has been changed by war.
The five actors in this production play all the roles, from the hangers on at Clifford’s parties, to the staff, all hidden behind ghoulish masks that allowed ages and genders to be easily changed between a limited number of players.
Into this sterile atmosphere of duty and little affection, Constance meets Mellors (Marcus Fernando) the northern game-keeper who shows her the affection and love that she has been missing. The infamous love scenes in the story are well handled and seem natural, rather than prurient, and show the bravery of both actors and producers in staging this adaption.
Although they wish to keep their affair secret, it is soon revealed, as housekeeper Mrs Bolton (Samantha Phelps) and Constance’s sister Hilda (Rebecca Rochelle) learn of it, and although Clifford has encouraged his wife to find a lover to provide an heir for their estate, he is angry that her choice is the low-born Mellors, even though he and Constance have a stronger physical and emotional relationship.
Clifford is shown to be a man of intellect and he rails at the plight of the worker, but seems less angry when his wife falls in love with another man, but this facet of his nature is not really revealed until the end of the play, where we seem him, alone in his mansion, having lost everything that meant so much to him.
There are some problems with the pacing of the play though, with too much exposition in the first half and many ideas having more than one airing.
The ending was true to the book, with no proper resolution for the characters.
This was a brave production and it is to the credit of the company and the Blue Orange Theatre that they took a chance that larger, more conservative theatres would think twice about.