Claustrophobic edge to Zola classic

Therese Raquin

Therese Raquin - Credit: Archant

Claustrophia oozes out of the Abbey Theatre Studio where the Company of Ten is currently performing an excellent version of the Zola classic Therese Raquin.

The St Albans drama group was certainly right to perform Nicholas Wright’s adaptation of the play in the confines of the Studio because the lives of its main characters are mirrored in the claustrophobic surroundings of the flat above the shop in which the Raquins live.

So much so, in fact, that when circumstances lead to murder so the two main characters can be together, they are unable to cope with the guilt.

In fact, as director Terry Prince so shrewdly observes in his programme notes, they are effectively imprisoned by remorse in the same way as their oppressive apartment has trapped them in mundanity.

Zola’s masterpiece translates surprisingly well to the stage even though Therese herself spends long periods just staring into space and taking little part in the action.

It is a masterclass in the old saying, be careful what you wish for.

Therese, a fine performance by Stephanie Jones who has just the right amount of brooding intensity, shares the apartment with her sickly husband Camille, played by Rob Ferguson - fast becoming an invaluable member of the local drama fraternity - and his mother played by Norma Jenkins.

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By a strange irony, her role is most pivotal at the end when she is barely able to move and just follows the action with her eyes which is a remarkably effective device.

Marc Ozall gives another good performance for the Company of Ten, this time as Laurent, Camille’s friend and Therese’s lover.

Unlikely though it sounds, there is humour in the play in the shape of Monsieur Grivet, an office worker played by Graham Boon who puts plenty of flesh on the bones of a character who could otherwise be dismissed merely as a bore. His impeccable comic timing is one of the high spots of the play.

The cast is completed by David Bailey as Monsieur Michaud, a retired police inspector, and his lovely niece Suzanne, both of whom add to the drama.

Terry Prince admits he was keen to direct the play and his rapport with both the characters and moral instruction is clear to see.

Therese Raquin runs until Saturday and tickets can be obtained from the box office on 01727 857861 or go to