Arts University Bournemouth [AUB]    AUB Studio Theatre, Wallisdown Campus, Bournemouth

Renée Claude  17 November  2023

Originally written in 1868 by Émile Zola, the novel’s themes of adultery and murder were thought to be scandalous and “putrid” as stated in French newspaper Le Figaro. Upon its 1873 adaptation as a play, it tells the story of Thérèse Raquin, her husband (and cousin) Camille, her mother-in-law, and her lover Laurent.

Thérèse is unhappily married to Madame Raquin’s sickly son Camille, until she enters a passionate affair with his childhood friend Laurent. They secretly meet in Thérèse’s room, but this becomes increasingly difficult. Enchanted by the idea of marriage, and realising Camille is the only thing stopping the two lovers from being together, they come to the idea of killing Camille. After drowning him on a boat trip, Laurent grows restless with uncertainty as to whether he truly is dead and visits the morgue every day until he sees the body. The two lovers now have different feelings toward one another as they grow anxious and paranoid, and they begin to hallucinate of the deceased in their bed, preventing them from intimacy. Madame Raquin suffers a stroke and becomes partially paralysed. She overhears Thérèse and Laurent arguing, revealing the murder. During a game of dominoes with friends, Madame Raquin’s attempt at telling everyone about the murder is misinterpreted to mean “Thérèse and Laurent look after me very well”. In the final moments of the play, we learn that Laurent abuses Thérèse and they argue constantly. Both have plans to kill the other but as they realise each other’s plans, they commit suicide together.

This production of Thérèse was performed and staged almost entirely by Arts University Bournemouth students from Acting, Performance Design and Film Costume, Costume Hair, and Make-Up for Media and Performance courses. It being my first time attending a production at AUB, I was admittedly hesitant to expect a quality performance, but I am glad to say that I was wrong. The entire cast and crew 100% deserved the standing ovation they received during the bows, and I sincerely wish the undergraduates the very best in their professional futures!

Brooke Monet played the titular role of Thérèse alongside Isaac Redgrave as Laurent, Joseph Chase as Camille, and Maja Lönnroth as Madame Raquin. Starting as an ambient, slow-motion performance while you take your seat, the show quickly evolved into a well-paced lively telling of a devastating tale.

The cast of 11 were all wonderfully talented, with the actors doubling as singers in this production; Nicole Phillip (Suzanne) and Jamie McLaughlin (Grivet) had their shining moments when it came to vocal ability, both enriching their respective scenes with a poignant melody to accompany the acting on stage. Furthermore, the cast and crew did an exceptional job with the small stage they had – moving curtains, pipes, and chains to create tension and dramatic scene changes – simple but effective.

Director Fiona Ross did an excellent job staging such an intimate show. With some scenes being steamy and others being emotional and confrontational, the choreography was immaculate and precise – you can tell a lot of work has gone into creating a comfortable environment within the actors, particularly in the more intimate scenes. Additionally, there are various dance numbers such as a dominoes night tango in which the dominoes are hit together like castanets and the characters pair up for a brief but dramatic tango. The comedic moments are sparse but hilarious when they’re there. From facial expressions and subtle head movements to line delivery and body language, the drama, emotion, comedy, and passion were perfected, even when the actors were behind curtains and crawling around offstage.

Thérèse has two more showings; Saturday 18 November at 2:30pm and 7:30pm. As this show is only 1 hour 35 minutes, there is no interval – so make sure you’re ready!