The Lover

When watching the stage adaptation of any book, especially one I’ve not read, there’s often a question lingering at the back of my mind; would I appreciate this more, would I understand this better, if I had? It’s a telling distraction, of course; arguably, any stage adaptation should stand or fall on its own metaphorical feet as a work of theatre; if you need to bring background information to make the experience work, it’s failed.

The lithe, physical strength of the dancers is, at times, breath-taking

Not that this stage adaptation of Marguerite Duras’s memoir is a failure; it is beautiful to watch, a balanced combination of theatre and dance within a simple set of delicate drapes and monochromatic graphics. There is an equally entrancing soundscape of French and English pop that, while historically inaccurate for 1930s Vietnam, feels narratively appropriate. It’s a rare coproduction between three of the country’s most creative performance companies: Scottish Dance Theatre, Stellar Quines, and the Lyceum. Yet all through the 90 minutes running time, I couldn’t help wonder: What I was missing from the book? Worse: Why should I care?

There is a potentially extremely involving story at the heart of The Lover, the memoir of a 15 year old French girl’s passionate affair with a 27 year old Chinese man; how her family’s poverty and his millionaire father’s expectations of an honourable marriage ultimately doomed their relationship. Apparently following the approach of the memoir, this stage adaptation by choreographer Fleur Darkin and director Jemima Levick avoids names and details of the individuals involved; only the Girl’s two brothers have names, but both are pretty much robbed of individuality by having all the characters’ dialogue pre-recorded, in female voices.

The lithe, physical strength of the dancers is, at times, breath-taking; whether it’s Amy Hollinshead’s free-spirited Girl, Yosuke Kusano's lean and curiously vulnerable Man, or Francesco Ferrari and Kieran Brown as the Girl’s two extrovert, quarrelling brothers. There are occasions when the choreography is narratively succinct and far more effective than any written scenes could be; and yet, equally, there are also moments of cliche—such as the cast’s initial crawling entry onto the stage, which cuts at the ropes of suspended disbelief and leaves you wondering what’s fundamentally wrong with simply walking like a normal human being.

For all the production’s promise of being “an irresistible blast of sensual heat for the dark days of January,” however, the reality is that The Lover lacks full-on passion, or a reason to care. Entwined, carefully choreographed bodies are not, in themselves, sufficiently erotic no matter how young and muscular they might be—not when the overall emotional experience they supposedly portray is deliberately kept at such a physical and emotional distance from us.

Reviews by Paul Fisher Cockburn


One of Two

Scottish Storytelling Centre

Moira in Lockdown

Laughing Horse @ Bar 50

Love and Sex on the Spectrum

Royal Lyceum Theatre

Mrs Puntila And Her Man Matti


Since you’re here…

… we have a small favour to ask. We don't want your money to support a hack's bar bill at Abattoir, but if you have a pound or two spare, we really encourage you to support a good cause. If this review has either helped you discover a gem or avoid a turkey, consider doing some good that will really make a difference.

You can donate to the charity of your choice, but if you're looking for inspiration, there are three charities we really like.

Mama Biashara
Kate Copstick’s charity, Mama Biashara, works with the poorest and most marginalised people in Kenya. They give grants to set up small, sustainable businesses that bring financial independence and security. That five quid you spend on a large glass of House White? They can save someone’s life with that. And the money for a pair of Air Jordans? Will take four women and their fifteen children away from a man who is raping them and into a new life with a moneymaking business for Mum and happiness for the kids.
Donate to Mama Biashara now

Theatre MAD
The Make A Difference Trust fights HIV & AIDS one stage at a time. Their UK and International grant-making strategy is based on five criteria that raise awareness, educate, and provide care and support for the most vulnerable in society. A host of fundraising events, including Bucket Collections, Late Night Cabarets, West End Eurovision, West End Bares and A West End Christmas continue to raise funds for projects both in the UK and Sub-Saharan Africa.
Donate to Theatre MAD now

Acting For Others
Acting for Others provides financial and emotional support to all theatre workers in times of need through the 14 member charities. During the COVID-19 crisis Acting for Others have raised over £1.7m to support theatre workers affected by the pandemic.
Donate to Acting For Others now



The Blurb

In 1984 French novelist Marguerite Duras wrote of her own youth in Vietnam; now three of Scotland’s major performing arts companies fuse spoken word, music and evocative dance in an irresistible blast of sensual heat for the dark days of January.

Most Popular See More


From £30.00

More Info

Find Tickets

The Book of Mormon

From £24.00

More Info

Find Tickets


From £39.00

More Info

Find Tickets

The Lion King

From £35.00

More Info

Find Tickets

Matilda the Musical

From £24.00

More Info

Find Tickets

Back to the Future - The Musical

From £24.00

More Info

Find Tickets