"Enjoyable adaptation for great book"
by Marco Marrese for remotegoat on 11/03/11

The Galleon Theatre Company delivers a very pleasant theatre evening with its latest version of Eça de Queirós's Os Maias. This adaptation is well-rounded, the staging pleasing and clever and the actors' performances emotional and persuasive.

Obviously, any stage adaptation of a great book like Eça's is deemed to be an arduous task and to feel incomplete. It is therefore ironically an advantage (given Alice de Sousa commitment to promoting Portuguese literature), both for Galleon and the spectators, that The Maias is an uncommon reading.

The Maias is one of the "family sagas" of the late nineteenth century European literary realism.
Written around the same age as Les Rougon-Macquart cycle by Zola and I Malavoglia by Verga, it is nonetheless in Die Buddenbrook by Mann that we have its best-known equivalent. As those books, The Maias is the story of the progressive decadence and corruption of a family as the new generations (and society broadly) abandon the old ways and with them their identity and meaning.
As in Verga, the book is pessimistic but compassionate.As in Zola, the storyline is impregnated with the latest (at the time) psychological and biological theories (Darwinism and hereditarism).
As in The Buddenbrooks, there is a strong autobiographical component. But the greatness of those books is that they represent the degeneration of a whole social order. So, the aristocrat (but illegitimate) Eça portrays the decadence of aristocracy in a mix of dissolute sexual behaviour, economic inertia and cultural vacuity.

The Galleon adaptation is brilliant in conveying those aspects of the text while remaining witty and enjoyable. It is, unfortunately but very understandably, less successful in rendering the temporal scope of the saga, as it limits itself to the central events of the book: the origin, development and end of the love story between the (unware) brothers Carlos de Maia (Damian Quinn) and Maria Eduarda (Alice de Sousa). But the script remains solid.

Carlos is well represented in his duplicity, as a philanthropist doctor and an hedonist who enjoys women and conversation, while Maria Eduarda is not fully convincing as it feels a tad over-acted and lacks some depth. For this reason, the first half of the performance is probably more appealing, as it focuses on Carlos's character and his acquaintances: the Countess Gouvarinho (Helen Bang), the first lover of Carlos and a fittingly dissolute and enticing woman, unable to control her passions and Carlos's best friend, Joao Ega (Peter Rae), who comes across truly as a quick-tempered ever-student, never tired of criticising the very society he is part of and whose leisure he enjoys; and, at the same time, as Carlos's loyal and lucid friend. Finally, Mark Compton as Damaso seems to have jumped out of the book, with his chic-erie, slyness and presumptuousness.

The direction is well crafted with the actors entering and moving around the scene naturally and with rhythm, despite the limited space available, the need to break the action in many scenes and a fixed stage. The costumes merit a special mention as the work done by Richard Cooke for this adaptation is awesome and absolutely fitting. The only downside of the performance is the sound as it starts inappropriately or ends abruptly too many times.

The Galleon has achieved once more its target: staging a good production and promoting Portuguese culture. The viewers will be satisfied after this show and many could decide to read the book afterwards.

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