REVIEW: Tristram Shandy 2: A Sentimental Journey
Mark Danciger is deeply disappointed by a sequel that fails to live up to the original’s high standards.
Tristram Shandy’s first outing, at the ADC last October, was an unconditional success.
Will Dalrymple’s fine writing style, together with a stellar performance from Tristram (Tim Atkin) ensured that the adaptation of Laurence Sterne’s groundbreaking novel was both hilarious and emotional. This term, the team have tried to recreate this success with a sequel, this time hosted in Pembroke New Cellars.
Unfortunately Tristram Shandy 2: A Sentimental Journey doesn’t so much fail to live up to the original as actively shit all over everything that made October’s show so great. Gone is the short but sweet run time, the elaborate prop and set changes, the structured lack of structure. Instead, the show is repetitive, underrehearsed, unfunny and, at nearly 2 hours, intolerably long.
Tristram Shandy 2 is loosely based on Sterne’s ‘A Sentimental Journey Through France and Italy’, an unofficial epilogue to Tristram Shandy focusing on the adventures of Parson Yorick, played by Writer/Director Will Dalrymple. However, the story is derailed almost immediately by the arrival of Tristram, thought by all to be dead. Tristram and Yorick proceed to gallivant through Europe, on a quest to cheat death.
The first act, though deeply flawed, had plenty to praise, as we caught glimpses of what made the original so great. Opening with Tristram’s funeral, the audience is treated to an immersive piece of theatre, singing hymns and listening to readings by Alan Bennett. The opening is high energy and great fun, and this is only amplified by the arrival of Tristram. Tim Atkin has such a natural good humour and joviality that it is impossible not to smile whenever he speaks, even though his dialogue is nowhere near as sharply scripted as in the original. He is one of the greatest comedic performers in Cambridge, and I will continue to see anything that he is in.
However, the first act quickly goes downhill, as it is clear that the performers have not rehearsed anywhere near enough. The delivery, blocking and scene changes were downright sloppy, with good jokes getting rarer and rarer as the act went on. The interval, when it eventually came, was well received due to its free wine and immersive performances, though most of the audience wished that the performance had ended there.
If only it had. The second act was one of the worst pieces of theatre I have seen in Cambridge, with barely any good jokes, no sense of pacing and a loose and incomprehensible plot. If it had been entirely improvised by a group of friends in a pub, I would have considered it poor, but coming from this cast and crew, who were responsible for such a wonderful piece of theatre in October, it was offensively terrible.
There’s a lesson to be learnt from Tristram Shandy 2. Just because you have a quality original, it doesn’t mean that you can create a successful sequel with no effort or originality.
Let’s hope there’s no Part 3.