The Menier Chocolate Factory presents Manuel Puig’s novel in a new adaptation by  José Rivera and Allan Baker. Here’s what critics have been saying about it…

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A provocative tale of love, victimisation, fantasy and the friendship that develops between two strikingly different men imprisoned together in a Latin American jail. 

The Stage: *** “Laurie Sansom’s production, set in Jon Bausor’s rundown concrete cell, brilliantly draws out that contrast between fantasy and reality.”

The Times: ** “If you are not depressed when you go in to this play, you will be when you emerge. Actually make that very depressed.”

WhatsOnStage: *** “It is Rivera and Baker’s script which occasionally jars, as the dialogue attempts to be brusquely modern and the subtext is not left to speak for itself. It could be something to do with the translation, but several times I noticed the script working a little too hard.”

The Guardian: ** “Sansom throws everything at it – including an overly romantic rain sequence – as if he never believes the men’s developing relationship will be enough to grip the audience. He is not helped by Rivera’s adaptation, which never makes the exchanges between Molina and the prison warden (Grace Cookey-Gam) remotely plausible.”

The Independent: **** “A focused, bitter-sweet adaptation that can be fervently recommended.”

A Younger Theatre: “The adapters José Rivera and Allan Baker really make us think with their choice of text from the original text by Manuel Puig as the ongoing theme of movies and creative forms being used as a relief of suffering is something we can immediately learn from.”

The Telegraph: **** “It’s a simple, romantic, masculinity-critiquing message the story carries: that tenderness can have the transformative force of a revolution – but it holds as true, and stands as necessary, as ever.”

British Theatre.com: **** “Surprisingly funny at times, the production has plenty of touching moments without becoming sentimental.”

Time Out: *** “This is a sturdy production with a fine turn from Barnett. However, none of this quite vindicates the endeavour.”

Exeunt Magazine: “Kiss of the Spider Woman is well acted but lacks any absorbing insight or rigour expected from a new adaptation.”

Broadway World: *** “While Barnett shines as his Molina talks about his passion and weaves stories to help them both run away, Bennett’s take is more grounded and earthy. His presence balances Barnett’s perfectly: while the first oozes masculinity and is at ease with his body and sexuality from the start, the latter is a vulnerable and sensitive man.”

The FT: *** “It’s a captivating production that pushes past stickier elements of the plotting to drill into the story’s deeper questions about freedom and identity.”

British Theatre Guide: “Laurie Sansom’s production will best be remembered for outstanding performances from both actors, with Samuel Barnett perhaps garnering the best of the accolades, which is a tribute both to the character with which he has been asked to work and also his own indisputable talent.”

The Gay UK: *** “Overall it’s an endearing piece and worth seeing for the glimpses of what it could have been.  There are achingly poignant moments which are something to embrace.”

JohnnyFox.co.uk:  ** “The problem is not that the two actors – Samuel Barnett as Molina, the gay window dresser who may be wrongfully imprisoned, and Declan Bennett as Valentin, the revolutionary who should probably be there – don’t throw themselves wholeheartedly into their roles, but that there’s not sufficient at which to throw themselves.”

The Metro: *** ” the story of two contrasting characters forced to, as Valentin puts it, ‘be human to one another’, feels more dog-eared than in the 1970s. That said, Laurie Sansom’s production has a fresh visual approach.”

There Ought to be Clowns: “Rivera and Baker’s adaptation does focus more on the personal than the political, so this does feel very much like the story of these two men rather than a searching insight into the LGBTQ experience in Latin America. But with that in mind, it is a painstakingly evocative study of the power – and limits – of love.”

Theatre Bubble: **** “The actors were aided by, for the most part, a gorgeously written script, stumbling only on some trite interpolations, and the occasional modern clanger such as “you took one for the team”.”

Mature Times: “The two actors hold the attention. Samuel Barnett has the showier role and gives his best performance I have seen him give since he acted Posner in Alan Bennett’s The History Boys.”

Plays To See: **** “Despite its wobbles, Samson’s production captures the emotional force of Puig’s novel, typified by the dazzling visual at the close.”

Kiss of the Spider Woman will play at the Menier Chocolate Factory  until the 5th May. For more information and to book tickets visit: https://www.menierchocolatefactory.com/Online/default.asp

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