Kiss Of The Spider Woman
Menier Chocolate Factory, London
AFTER the book there was the play, the film and the musical. So there are more versions of Manuel Puig’s 1976 novel, about two very different cellmates in an Argentinian jail and torture centre, than anyone could possibly wish to see.
This play (adapted by José Rivera and Allan Baker) stars shaven-headed Samuel Barnett, who is now co-starring in Netflix’s Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency with Elijah Wood.
He is the very camp Molina, the role that won William Hurt an Oscar in the 1985 movie. He’s a window dresser arrested for being gay. With him is the equally gaunt ex-EastEnder Declan Bennett as Valentin, the tortured revolutionary whose torments Molina soothes with plots of his favourite romantic films.
If that sounds dismissive, it might be because the story of two contrasting characters forced to, as Valentin puts it, ‘be human to one another’, feels more dog-eared than in the 1970s. That said, Laurie Sansom’s production has a fresh visual approach.
This tiny, big-hitting theatre has been turned into a nightmare detention centre.
Molina’s descriptions are beautifully illustrated with animated silhouettes of his favourite characters projected on to the concrete walls.
Of the leads, only Barnett — who conveys aching vulnerability and great mental strength — lights up this shadowy prison cell.
Bennett has the less well drawn character but the one-note masculinity of his Valentin is like a footballer who has swallowed a copy of Marx’s Das Kapital.