A tender take on Lady Chatterley’s Lover at Brighton’s Theatre Royal

onah Russell and Hedydd Dylan in Lady Chatterley's Lover . Picture by Mark Douet
onah Russell and Hedydd Dylan in Lady Chatterley's Lover . Picture by Mark Douet

As Hedydd Dylan points out, the nudity was straightforward to deal with for the simple reason that the nudity is essential to the piece.

Hedydd is Lady Chatterley as D H Lawrence’s novel comes to Theatre Royal Brighton until November 19.

“Lady Chatterley’s journey of self-discovery is portrayed quite clearly in Phillip Breen’s adaptation, but I would say that it is helpful for the audience to come into it remembering that it is set just after the First World War and that she has been caring for her husband at the point we meet her for four years.”

Lady Constance Chatterley is trapped in a loveless marriage. Feeling emotionally and physically neglected by her husband Clifford, she flees to the arms of their handsome gamekeeper Mellors.

As their passionate affair escalates, Constance begins to realise that she can no longer live in a world of the mind alone.

“We come to her as she is discovering her own freedom, her own mind, her own sexuality. She has like an awakening. It feels almost like a return to the self, the true self without societal constraints.

“And I think that social element of the story has not dated. The director was pointing out that, even today, people still do not really marry outside their class. It would still be frowned upon today. People still have certain ideas like that and that surprised me when I thought about it. And that’s an important part of the story – and another reason why the nudity is important. It is only when they are naked together that we appreciate they are just two human beings and that it should feel as simple as that.”

There is a line where Mellors points out that Lady Chatterley should get dressed, with the implication that it is only by dressing again that she becomes Lady Chatterley.

Naked, they are equals: “It just highlights how idiotic that whole thing about class is.

“The effect is the humiliation of her husband, but that is not the intention.

“People who say they remember the book often forget that her husband has invited her to have affairs so that he can have an heir. He is not an innocent bystander. He wants the seed planted. She has an affair with an Irish playwright that her husband introduces her to, but the relationship fizzles out. And then she meets Mellors, a man who is very gentle with her despite being a strong masculine man. He has sensitivity and gentleness.

“For D H Lawrence, the ultimate title of the book was going to be Tenderness, and that’s what this adaptation tries to bring out. There are the risqué elements, but the thing that is really important is that the relationship is tender and sincere.”

The production has been getting a great response: “Reactions differ from place to place. You forget it can still shock. When we get a younger audience in, they aren’t shocked at all. But if you get an older audience in, the interesting thing is that they are very relaxed by the nudity, but shocked by the language.

“But I am sure – and I am sure other people would disagree – that it is necessary. I just had to find my own way to be comfortable with the nudity. People say I must be very brave, but I don’t feel brave necessarily. I felt quite sacred of it at first in rehearsals, but the good thing is that now I feel very relaxed about it, I realise it is actually quite strange that we are all so body conscious. It seems bizarre to me that men are topless on the beach, but women aren’t. It is just one of those strange societal restraints.”

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