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REVIEW: Catch 22 at Derby Theatre

By Burton Mail  |  Posted: June 20, 2014

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HAVING read the novel in my younger years, I was incredibly intrigued to see how it could be adapted to the stage.

However, with the book having been adapted by author Joseph Heller himself, I could hardly be concerned by whether or not it was a true representation.

Walking into the auditorium, the open stage sets the scene immediately. The action takes place around a shot-down B-52 bomber, which acts as office, doctor’s surgery, tree and any other location as required.

Anybody who has read the book will know how anachronistic it is, with storylines jumping here, there and everywhere, before settling into some sort of conclusion. Clearly that would not have been appropriate for the theatrical production, and so it was performed as a much more linear story, focusing on the trials of war faced by bombardier Captain Yossarian.

Beginning with his promotion to captain as senior officers attempt to cover up what they see as an embarrassing lack of discipline, the story proceeds with his elaborate measures to avoid heading out on an ever-increasing amount of dangerous missions.

Philip Arditti was faultless as the protagonist. As a character I have always found Yossarian unsympathetic and whiny, and Arditti recreated this to perfection. I cannot fail to mention the fact he seemed word-perfect throughout - an impressive feat considering he barely left the action.

The company of eight performed all remaining roles, slipping into each with ease and professional prowess.

Because of the focus of the play, I felt some of the other parts were a little undeveloped, and therefore came across as caricatures, rather than characters in their own right. I think this worked rather well in the context of the story, which aims to highlight the lunacy and ridiculousness of the situation faced by these fighting men.

Dancing took place at intervals throughout the performance, which, I felt, contributed to the ‘stop-the-war-I-want-to-get-off’ feeling of the whole piece.

I had been worried that it would become bogged down with the detail, but instead, the play was pacy and accessible. It was both hilarious and poignant in the way it dealt with the issues at hand.

My one genuine criticism would be the length. The first half lasted an hour and a half, and the second was not much shorter. It is a complex story, and a challenging one to adapt for the stage, so I can appreciate the struggles to fit within a certain time period.

I enjoyed the performance enormously, but when the two-and-a-half-hour mark hit, I was not the only person wriggling in my seat. I think some parts could have been removed with no impact on the story to make it a slightly more manageable performance.

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