Happy Idiot Productions’ new take will bring a fresh twist to DH Lawrence’s classic story this autumn.
On September 17, Not: Lady Chatterley’s Lover plays the Connaught Theatre, Worthing and then from October 4-6 it plays the White Rock Theatre, Hastings.
Writer Lawrence Russell – who is also playing Lord Chatterley – has given the scandalous story the Mel Brooks treatment, with the help of Simon Godwin (associate director, National Theatre), Stephen Harper (Told By An Idiot) and Laurence Pears (The Play That Goes Wrong).
Lord Chatterley returns to Wragby Hall confined to a wheelchair and clutching his secret. Despite her husband’s new impotence, a subject that everyone struggles to avoid, Lady Chatterley entertains the idea that one day they could have a child. But, as the couple drift apart, she embarks on a passionate and curiously experimental affair with Mellors, the estate gamekeeper.
Lawrence is promising a laughter-filled parody that will bring you high drama, high comedy and highly-raised eyebrows. But it won’t just be the laughs. It’s a new version of the tale, but one which still explores the novel’s important themes of female sexuality, disability and loneliness.
“It’s a very popular novel that has captured everyone’s interest for so long, and it remains popular and entertaining. We thought it was perfect to bring back in this way.”
What makes it ripe for parody is that it is “all extremely life-defining and deep and moving, and you have got so much drama there. There are some very serious and deep moments, dealing with female sexuality and PTSD and how a marriage works after people have been away for so long. Our purpose was to create a moving drama where you can still have those elements that draw the audience in, but at the same time you can undercut them with a comedy twist. The more truthfully you do it, the more you can create that comedy.”
The idea is to send up the idea of costume drama – or at least our expectations of costume drama, “what people are expecting from these kinds of things from the books and the films, sending up the idea that the lady of the manor falls in love with the gamekeeper and that the stiff-upper-lipped husband just carries on despite everything going very badly around him.
“We still want to draw the audience in. If we can make them laugh and then cry within a few moments then that would be the ideal. So many people love the novel that they would feel really short-changed if we didn’t play those moments truthfully, but at the same time playing them truthfully is what opens the door to the comedy.”
The idea for the show came to Lawrence when he was watching the 2015 version on the BBC: “I was thinking that it was done brilliantly, but there were so many moments where I thought if they just extended them a little bit, it would be incredibly funny, just like what Victoria Wood used to do with her parody costume dramas in her Christmas shows. And I also took a lot of inspiration from Mel Brooks, what he did with Robin Hood: Men In Tights, that way he had of taking people’s expectations and twisting them.”
Lawrence added: “I’m really proud that we’ve been able to incorporate integrated audio description and creative captioning as standard for every show, meaning that those who have difficulties with their hearing or sight will get the jokes at the same time as everyone else!”
The cast includes Christina Baston (House on Haunted Hill), Wesley Griffith (Importance of Being Earnest), Rebecca McClay (Private Lives of The Tudors) and Lawrence Russell.