Saturday, April 13

Lady Chatterley’s Lover –

A musical based on DH Lawrence’s controversial last novel, Lady Chatterley’s Lover, sounds an interesting prospect. John Robinson – a former engineer and academic who turned composer late in life – has taken the romantic thread of the story, but jettisoned the sex, earthy language, and nudity to make a PG friendly show.

Filmed during its two-night run at the Shaftesbury Theatre in June, Sasha Regan’s production benefits from a clever two-tier set by Andrew Exeter highlighting the deeply rooted difference in class between Constance, Lady Chatterley (Georgia Lennon), and the rough gamekeeper (Michael Pickering) who had been an officer in the Great War. There is wood panelling and trappings of wealth above, and the rough bark of trees in the wood below.

An early number underlines the passion of a marriage between the Chatterleys (rhyming reliable with desirable, it shows what a society wife should be), but after Clifford, (Sam Kipling) new Lord of the estate of Wragley, is paralysed in combat, he becomes both controlling and peevish. His desire for his wife is more for breeding purposes than for her body.

Fine performances from the six strong cast give life to a score which is lushly created but somewhat unmemorable. Lawrence’s critique of both industrial unrest and pretentious intellectuals is simplified, and the character of Tommy Dukes (Jake Halsey-Jones) feels more a representation of Lawrence himself and his posthumous battle with the rigours of the Obscene Publications Act in the famed 1960 trial.

As an adaptation of a book which never shies away from four letter words and has memorable scenes relating to physical togetherness, this Lady Chatterley’s Lover is coy in the extreme. Pickering and Lennon – an off-screen team as One Trick Pony – have enough chemistry to suggest an obsessive attachment, but Kipling’s frustration as an impotent Sir Clifford who falls under the influence of his nurse (Emma Lindars) feels underwritten, his interest in modern techniques of mining removed.

I enjoyed hearing the cast (the other member being Zoe Rogers, playing both maid and estranged wife) engage with the music, whether in solo, duo, or ensemble pieces. There are a couple of moments where the effect is almost choral, with layers of sound coming from cleverly staged character placement.

Considered as a musical with, as Robinson put it in a pre-show chat, “a very good story”, Lady Chatterley delivers a melodic, if a little bland, piece of drama. Some character changes jar a little, and the ending is unfulfilling if you know the book, but ultimately this is an entertaining enough ninety minutes.

Lady Chatterley’s Lover is available on from 15th October – 21st November and you can book tickets at  

Reviewer: Louise Penn

Reviewed: 8th October 2021

North West End UK Rating: ★★★