The Massive Tragedy of Madame Bovary at The Liverpool Everyman

Posted on 11 February 2016
By Janie Philips
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Gustave Flaubert’s epic novel comes to life at The Liverpool Everyman Theatre adapted by Peepolykus’s John Nicholson and Javier Marzan. This new version is quite unlike Flaubert’s complex book, rather a new look at a novel that when first serialized in 1856 public prosecutors attacked for it obscenity.

There are only four actors that take on the 24 characters or so in the story, with Javier Marzan and Jonathan Holmes taking on the lion’s share leaving Emma Fielding as Madame Bovary and John Nicholson as her husband Charles. As expected in a Peepolykus production, physical comedy is much in play and the Everyman stage is certainly utilised, with plenty of space for the four to tear around.

A black wall is only transformed when one of the actors appears with chalk in hand, and starts to write destinations or draw objects that suddenly appear to work. Sliding panels and hidden holes where props are kept; a clever use of the set that mean no lengthy scene changes.

These four do well to keep up the energy required to fuel this full on play and they do so brilliantly. Nicholson and Marzan have balanced the humour with some of the more poignant parts of Emma’s story, never really straying to far away from her emotional turmoil. It is hard to do comedy and certainly hard to turn a story such as Flaubert’s into a structured piece of theatre that entertains without losing the ethos of the original meaning.

It is not easy to go from page to stage but under the watchful eye of Artistic Director of the Everyman/Playhouse Gemma Bodinetz, this adaptation does well with its clever use of staging, a witty script and four courageous actors.

PR Rating: ****

The Massive Tragedy of Madame Bovary! Runs until Sat 27 Feb. For tickets and information about the show please visit: