Norfolk & Norwich Festival 2022 review: A Tale of Two Cities

A Tale of Two Cities is part of the Norfolk and Norwich Festival 2022.

A Tale of Two Cities is part of the Norfolk and Norwich Festival 2022. - Credit: Camilla Greenwell

Charles Dickens’ tale of oppression and retribution has inspired many a fascinating spin-off.

On a speculative search, Crib and Fly: A Tale of Two Terriers (anonymously written in 1876) caught my eye.

But perhaps that’s because the company who stage this anarchic retelling of Dickens for the Norfolk and Norwich Festival at St Andrews Hall are called Lost Dog.

Based in East Sussex, they were founded in 2004 by Ben Duke and Raquel Meseguer.

The company has already knocked out successful new versions of Paradise Lost and Romeo and Juliet.

The challenge of recreating a narrative is to keep the audience with you, so just to make sure we know what’s going on Lucie (Nina-Morgane Madelaine) comes out at the start to have a chat.

“I am Lucie Manette” she informs us, “my mother is also Lucie Manette.” We are told (to general giggles from the audience) to take out pen and paper and write things down so we don’t get confused.

A Tale of Two Cities was performed at St Andrews Hall in Norwich. 

A Tale of Two Cities was performed at St Andrews Hall in Norwich. - Credit: Camilla Greenwell

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But we are quickly caught up in the intrigue: a story in which the nasty crimes of a French aristocrat send guilt and anguish down through generations of one blighted family.

Lost Dog play fast and loose with the original text, setting the female experience centre stage and improvising their own elegant lines as they unpack each episode.

Lucie the mother gets the lion’s share of the action, but as her daughter films the evening for a fictional documentary, hers is the eye we look through.

The last remaining victim of their family’s crimes weaves her pain through their story.

It all unfolds against the backdrop of the family’s ruined home, a place visibly undermined by the sins of the past.

A blank, sloping ceiling becomes a projection screen for the documentary which is live-streamed as it is made.

And although the cinema verité style perhaps lacks the sensational drama of the novel, the expressive movement sequences reveal its heart.

The Norfolk and Norwich Festival runs until May 29, book tickets at nnfestival.org.uk