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 The Theatreguide.London Review

The Postman Always Rings Twice
Playhouse Theatre      Summer 2005

American actors attracted to the West End stage have had a good run of late, but even the most devoted fans of Val Kilmer's blockbuster movies may leave this bland production feeling shortchanged.

It is easy to see why the show's producers thought Kilmer great casting for Frank Chambers, a role which demands all manner of sex appeal, danger and violence.

Surely he could add an intensity to the playing of this Depression-era small town crook and bum whose life changes when he arrives at a roadside diner on the outskirts of LA.

Greek owner Nick Papadakis offers him a job as a mechanic, but Frank's real reason for sticking around is the very attractive Mrs Cora Papadakis.

Even if there are audience members that have not seen either one of the movie versions of James M Cain's 1934 novella, it is not difficult to predict that sparks will soon fly between the hired help and frustrated Cora, so bored with her "greasy" husband that she has murder on her mind.

Fireworks, however, are in short supply.

Andrew Rattenbury's adaptation does nothing to save a piece which appears dated and disjointed with nothing very interesting to say. And though Charlotte Emmerson injects lust, anger and regret into the character of Cora, Kilmer is more lumbering, dumb animal than predator.

Some of the best acting comes from the supporting players, with Joe Alessi convincing as both Nick Papadakis and the manipulative lawyer undermining all the good work of DA Sackett, an impressive Keith Bartlett.

Director Lucy Bailey and designer Bunny Christie (along with Emmerson) previously had a big hit with Tennessee Williams' Baby Doll. But this staging - first seen at the West Yorkshire Playhouse in 2004 is unlikely to repeat the same success.

Bailey has an instinct for the subject matter but cannot speed up its pedestrian pace, even if Christie's excellent grimy diner set - complete with dramatic car crash - and Django Bates' music create the right atmosphere.

Lisa Martland

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Review of  The Postman Always Rings Twice - Playhouse Theatre 2005

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