Jude The Obscure Becomes Judith At Hampstead Theatre

Jude, Hampstead Theatre ★★★☆☆

By Alice Grahame Last edited 41 months ago

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Jude The Obscure Becomes Judith At Hampstead Theatre Jude, Hampstead Theatre 3
Photo: Marc Brenner

Howard Brenton’s retelling of Jude the Obscure reimagines Jude as Judith, a refugee who has escaped war-torn Syria. Despite an interrupted education she has a rare talent for ancient languages, and dreams of studying classics at Oxford.

Directed by Edward Hall, soon to end his 10 year stint at Hampstead Theatre, Brenton’s piece tackles a range of contemporary themes: hostile environment immigration policies, access to education, Oxbridge admissions, religious fanaticism.

Photo: Marc Brenner

Unfortunately the sheer number of issues means that topics are dealt with in a rather superficial, almost stereotypical, manner. Caroline Loncq draws laughs as the dotty classics professor at an institution that is more Hogwarts than 21st century centre of academic excellence. Isabella Nefar presents Jude as complicated, determined and somewhat narcissistic. Her choice of sexual partners seem unlikely given her ambition, as does her lack of humility, or humour, in the face of her situation.

Photo: Marc Brenner

Ashley Martin-Davis’ design is as clear and focussed as the narrative is muddled. A mountain of books dominates the stage, perhaps representing the upward struggle that Jude faces to achieve her academic dreams. Live gardening and dramatic blood spill add interest to a show that is visually striking but narratively unconvincing.

Jude, Hampstead Theatre, Eton Avenue, NW3 3EU, £10-37, 26 April-1 June 2019.

Last Updated 09 May 2019