This stage adaption of the book and film was experimental, wacky and creative – a cocktail which at times proved highly successful and at other times fell completely flat. In the words of Mr. Braddock, the whole thing was pretty “half-baked”.
The plot follows fairly accurately Nichols’ film – Ben, the protagonist, is seduced by the embittered and infamous Mrs Robinson, which leads to a summer romp, before he unwittingly falls in love with her daughter, Elaine. Some of the scenes were executed brilliantly. The cast used a white screen and lighting very well in the first lovemaking scene between Ben and Mrs Robinson, and some of the scenes were wonderfully textured between foreground and background, presenting two simultaneous narratives, which often juxtaposed the comic with the serious. Some of the scenes however, really brought the performance down (A scene in which Elaine and her mum roll around drunk for a good ten minutes springs to mind). The final scene of the play was also a big disappointment and was out of kilter with everything that had come before it. In it, the newly betrothed couple descended into an advert for ‘Cheerios’ – a comment on the commercialised Hollywood depiction of the ‘happily ever after’, but lacking any form of nuance or subtlety.The acting varied almost as much as the scenes. Miles Mlambo was generally strong as the lead but he took a while to get into the swing of it, and overacted somewhat in the earliest scenes, particularly in his first rendez-vouz with Mrs Robinson. Hitchins, as Elaine, was perhaps the star of the show – her acting was the most believable and engaging, and her accent was consistent throughout. The same cannot be said for Honour Mission, or Laurie Cannon, playing Mrs Braddock and Mr Robinson respectively. Their accents were phenomenally bizarre and inconsistent, sounding at times Irish and South African. Their scenes were unconvincing and at points positively difficult to sit through.
One of the biggest misfortunes and disappointments of the show was the music. Tarascas, the director, used original folk music by a duo called Rotait’ which was overly sentimental and out-of-kilter with the wonderfully quirky and comic elements of The Graduate. The acoustic guitarist and vocalist, Tait, came centre-stage and serenaded the audience at various intervals, which was stilting and over-the-top. He was a very talented singer but the music was drawling in this context. The film was, and still is, renowned for its incredible soundtrack – to stray from that was a very risky move and one which certainly didn’t pay off.
An undeniable redeeming feature was the set; it was a stroke of genius - split into three segments, one on a platform above the rest. It lent the action a mobility and diversity, which made it visually textured. The penultimate scene in the church was successful despite verging on the ridiculous because of its clever and comic utilisation of this space.