In 1993, I saw John Madden’s film adaptation of thenovel Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton. Wanting to read the original book on which the film was based, I was struck in the novel’s introduction by the reference to a companion novel – Summer – that Wharton had written some years afterwards.
I sought out the novel and was immediately struck by its story and characters. As in Ethan Frome, the novel concerned a love triangle but whereas in the first novel where Ethan was the centre, caught between his wife Zeena and her cousin Maddie, in Summer, Wharton explored the awakening of Charity, a young girl and the two men in her life, Royall her guardian and the young visitor to their tiny village, Lucius Harney.
Rather than adapt the whole story, I became much more interested in whether I could tell the events of the novel purely through its three main characters and by doing so, create a dynamic and emotional piece of work.
Following many drafts and workshops with a brilliant group of actors – Lucy Cudden, Andrew Macbean and Benjamin Wilkin – Summer received its World Premiere at the Jack Studio Theatre, London in May 2012. I was delighted with the production of my first play and in particular, of the three incredible actors – Joanne Gale, Francis Adams and JeffreyMundell – who portrayed Charity, Royall and Harney.
‘The performances are good, with Joanne Gale capturing the headstrong girl with all the sarcasm and moodiness that you’d expect from a teenager without seeming incongruent to the time. Francis Adams is perfectly cast as the patriarchal Royall, creating a good man whose morals you can begin to mistrust as the story unfolds. In the second half, there is a lovely moment as he addresses the audience (as the townspeople) and you get a real sense of his guilt and fear underneath his speech. Mundell, in a subtle performance, builds a steamy chemistry with Gale and the two express a very convincing love for each other.’
One Stop Arts
‘The character of Charity is beautifully drawn, strong but also vulnerable, frustrated by the expectations placed on her sex by society… One would anticipate the relationships between these three characters, specifically chosen by the writer to carry the plot of an entire novel, to be intense and flagrant, but somehow each one remains emotionally and physically independent from the others to a considerable extent… Music and sound effects composed and arranged by Millie Cook are engrossing; string arrangements lend a sense of gravity and foreboding from the earliest scenes… Alesya Bolotina’s set design is simple yet effective, with only two tatty chairs and a bench to evoke the New England setting. It’s the lighting design, by Katherine Lowry, that really lifts the space, teasing out the hidden colours of Bolotina’s set, and conveying a sense that there’s more going on here than meets the eye. The small studio space has been reconfigured, and this new set up allows director Timothy Stubbs Hughes to create a real sense of flow and pace.’
‘Joanne Gale portrays spunky Charity with fervour, she is quick witted and at times a little brusk as teenagers can be. There’s a lovely chemistry between her and Jeffrey Mundell who plays Lucius, the blossoming relationship is played out subtly.’