An interesting reimagining of Hugo’s classic, but it carries a lot of caveats
The narrative framework is certainly one of the play’s strong points. Maintaining a present-tense sense of tension and intrigue is helpful to engagement when the story is embedded in the past, and the interactions between Gringoire (Josh Utting) and the aforementioned waif, C (Sarah Redford), are particularly exciting as they bounce between roles within and without that framework. But the latter character is frustrating. C says who she is is “unimportant”, even though she knows everything about the story that Gringoire would rather not tell. Her stubborn lack of identity defines her as a device, making that interesting dramatic structure a tad too bare.
These sorts of contradictions abound. The actors, for the most part, display convincing vocal range. Of particular notice is Abbie Jones as Esmeralda, whose dancing needs to believably ensnare the hearts of almost every man in the play, and it does. But the blocking and execution is quite awkward, most easily demonstrated by a scene in which an unconscious Esmeralda leaps into the arms of the person who is to carry her offstage. Direction suffers in other areas, as well. On multiple occasions, two important events happen simultaneously, and, while I admire the ambition in blocking and pace, it is impossible to follow that amount of action. The same applies to the script. The dark, moody writing is matched by a story that needs to race in order to show the events of a novel in just one hour.
The technical elements are the only part that get unqualified praise: costume was period-appropriate and aesthetically appropriate, set was innovative and striking, and lights and sound, though used in moderation, certainly enhanced the action.
Hunchback is an interesting reimagining of Hugo’s classic, but it carries a lot of caveats. Though grand in style and story, underachievement in execution leaves this production hardly Dickensian.