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Thérèse Raquin

Émile Zola's 19th Century novel Thérèse Raquin comes to the Darwin stage this month in a critically acclaimed play by Melbourne’s Dirty Pretty Theatre. The play follows a young woman unhappily married off to her cousin, who begins a torrid affair – with dangerous results. Off The Leash spoke with director Gary Abrahams about this lavish, costumed production of the classic French novel.

How did you adapt the novel Thérèse Raquin for the stage?
One of the things I did discover is that the book is quite sprawling – there’s a lot of other characters in the book and it goes through various locations and settings, so for me part of the adaptation processwas going, ‘what happens if I just condense everything? Set it in just one room, the Raquins’ apartment, what does that do to the story?’ Through that process of elimination I discovered how fast the story could move and I turned it into a sort of action-packed and swift-moving, tragic melodrama. 

Has that changed the genre of the story? 
When Zola wrote Thérèse Raquin, a lot of the books and literature of the time were kinds of soap operas and dealt with upper-class people and wealth and scandal. Zola was one of the first writers of the time to explore real working-class characters in a working class setting, and the inner psychology ofthe human mind. Of course when we read it now, the melodrama and tragedy of it still seems really strong, so I think I heightened that in the adaptation and allowed the melodrama to be front and centre.

There’s not many plays like this that tour to Darwin. What can people expect?
It is really quite unusual for a show like this to tour around Australia, not just Darwin – it’s expensive, obviously. I think it’s really exciting that we get to bring this world 
to other parts of Australia. It’s very theatrical: beautiful corsets, costumes, big hooped skirts and a sort of theatrical romanticism. It’s high-end and really entertaining.

See the event listing.

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