Freelance Journalist and Playwright

August 05, 2011
There have been many interpretations of the infamous Lolita over the years - films, plays, operas, ballets, a musical, and even pop songs where the name ‘Lolita’ is used to denote a girl infatuated with an older man or vice versa. Some have omitted the dark comedy, whilst others have dampened down the paedophilic tendencies of protagonist Humbert Humbert. However, ‘Theatre Collection’ in their cosily adapted theatre above the Lord Stanley pub have failed on neither account.
A touch overly farcical at times, Victor Sobchak has certainly embraced both humour and eroticism to create this modern-day interpretation of Nabokov’s original novel. It is after all one of the best-known and most controversial examples in 20th century literature.
Our Lolita, aged 12, engagingly and enticingly played by Sandy Jarvis, sucks a banana, studies ‘girly magazines’ (celebrity culture) implying ‘sex is good for the complexion’, and gesticulates provocatively around middle-aged ‘Dad’ or Humbert Humbert the paedophile.
The school girl is lacking a father figure, the literary scholar mourns the loss of a childhood sweetheart, and together they find ‘comfort’. Both characters are seemingly guilty of corrupting the other for sexual favours. Nabokov did not mean his story to have a moral but it is a ‘study in tyranny’.
Gary Heron as Humbert, picks up on the weakness of an adult man with a psychiatric disorder and sexual interest or obsession in prepubescent girls. He’s the Fritzl of today, and the novelist played by James Dutton, shares his thoughts with him as the story unfurls.
Dutton’s presence feels a little awkward and uncomfortable, stumbling on words occasionally as he narrates his Lolita. Whether this is meant, who is to say? Unfortunately, the other characters, and there are many, are played a little too farcically and stereotypically.
The audience certainly laughed at this tragicomedy. I, however, would have liked to have returned home a little more disturbed. I felt uneasy, not because of the subject matter, but more due to the uneasiness of the actors and adaptation.
Technically there was room for improvement. A curtain was used for exits/entrances which exposed a lit dressing room behind. When Lolita’s mother, played with comic-zeal by Lindsay Ann Bryan exited to change into school girl attire, we were left waiting with music and a rather awkward Humbert sitting until her re-entrance.
The crass interpretation was perhaps correct for the nature of the piece, as Lolita declares, sitting spread-eagle on Humbert’s lap, whilst encouraging him to scratch her back: ‘that feels fucking good’.
Lord Stanley NW1 Running until August 21st