Currently playing at the Menier Chocolate Factory, Manuel Puig’s novel Kiss of the Spider Woman has been adapted for the stage, with a running time of 1 hour 40 minutes, cramming in every conceivable emotion. It tells the tale of two men who are cellmates in prison. One sentenced for gross misconduct, the other for his political stances. We watch as they learn to adapt to the cards that life has dealt them, along with trying to learn to live again.
This is a story of acceptance, of how opposites attract. How love is forgiveness. Whatever the circumstance, it is just fine to be comfortable in the uncomfortable.
We start by watching two incomparable men trying to connect. The tension, the atmosphere, the difficulty. Each telling their very different stories to one another and seeking a mutual and neutral ground. After a short while, we go from noticing their gender to observing two people trying to pass time together. To watch their bond grow, deepen and evolve is gripping. Samuel Barnet as Molina is mesmerising. Declan Bennett in the role of hard man and protester Valentin, shows us his softer side through a conversation about his favourite films. Shadows were projected onto the set and this added beauty to what is, in essence, a piece about love, whatever the form. This is where director Laurie Sansom’s skills show, the beauty of general conversation meaning much more than, well, general conversation. The imagery and content of the cinematic story kept me enthralled throughout. The two start to become one as their relationship blossoms to more than just friendship.
And then they consummate their love: tenderly, ferociously, animalistically, captivatingly.
The underlying theme of this play, in my eyes, is that love is always the answer, whatever the question. You will emerge looking at the world through fresh eyes. It is the core of the play, the nuances and the inflections, that will stay with you long after you have left the theatre.
Kiss of the Spider Woman is playing through 5 May, you can book your Kiss of the Spider Woman tickets here.
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