The Massive Tragedy of Madame Bovary

by Gustave Flaubert, lovingly derailed by John Nicholson 28 Mar 2023 - 14 Apr 2023

A Minack Theatre and Ha Hum Ah production

Emma Bovary is bored. She’s bored with her boring doctor husband, bored with her boring provincial village and bored with her role as a dutiful wife in (boring) nineteenth-century France. But Emma reads novels. Lots of novels. And in novels, life is much more fun… Now, four actors battle hilarious mishaps and misbehaving props to tell the (massively) tragic story of Madame Bovary.

Laugh and cry in equal measure as Emma Bovary chooses the wrong husband. Lose yourself in mesmeric love scenes featuring a stupendous collection of devastatingly handsome men. Question the impotence of women in a patriarchal, Victorian society (if you want). There will be vermin, visual absurdity, wild animals and a nun.

Gustave Flaubert’s Madame Bovary was published in 1856, prosecuted for obscenity and hailed as the greatest novel ever written. 

Flaubert’s complex novel is given a refreshing shake up in this irreverent, irrepressible and irresistible play.

Review by Jenni Balow


There is no other way to put this  - Madame Bovary has read too many romantic novels, and now she's obsessed by sex, as a way out of a fairly routine life with a country doctor.

Given that the author is French, and the novel caused a scandal when it was published in 1856, with Flaubert defending an accusation of obscenity in court, you will understand that the content is 'adult'.

Now that you know what to expect, don't miss it, whatever you do!

This is a brilliant, very, very funny production, with a stellar cast of four playing multiple roles, and I reckon it will be one of the best of the season.Tickets are available until the end of the run on Friday April 14.

The pre-show publicity describes how John Nicholson has derailed the novel, giving it a good shake-up, making it an "irreverent, irrepressible, irresistible play" - I could not put it better.

The Minack with Ha Hum Ah Productions have linked to bring us the gorgeous Geordie, Georgia Nicholson, do you remember her in Hetty Feather last year, Ben Kernow, one of our best, Darren Seed who starred in another hit last season, Superstition Mountain, and Stephen Cavanagh, who also wowed in Stones In His Pockets.

Well, it's a good start, and with direction by Kirstie Davis, a mesmerising 'magic' seduction, the French shutters and dashing costumes faultlessly designed by Marion Harrison with Yasmin Baird, striking movement and choreography by Grace Murdoch, with a wonderful champagne and gateau 'ballet', music and sound by Dan Bottomley, with lighting by Simon Hutchings, you have it all.

Then there is the passion, lots of it, and a fair degree of heartbreak that will inevitably bring tears to your eyes, not just for the breathless Emma Bovary, but for one of her lovers, at least initially, and certainly for the doctor, bullied at school, trying his best to make people better - and totally in awe of the five different types of plough on display at the Yonville agricultural fair, where his wife is being openly seduced.

Flaubert was soon hailed as the writer of one of the greatest novels ever, aided and abetted by its notoriety, after his successful appearance in court, and there is a complexity and understanding of the human condition that holds the story, with its inevitably tragic ending, realistically together.

Early on, Emma declares that she wants to stand "in the heart of a storm" and she succeeds pretty much all the way through the play. The clock is ticking loudly and inexorably on stage, and Piaf's "no regrets" that come to mean the reverse, give us an early warning, unheeded by the remarkable Georgia, giving one of the performances of her life.

We share in the naughtiness, the audacity of the sex and seductions that are funny and fun, the smug, smirking asides, the props including the 'baby bump' black apron, so symbolic alongside the Adam and Eve box of glossy red apples, all a delight.

It doesn't come better than this.