A Classic Novel Brought to Life—Magnus Theatre’s Of Human Bondage

 

Review by Pat Forrest, Photos by Matthew Goertz

Someone once said that W. Somerset Maugham’s Of Human Bondage was an “unlikable book about unlikable people doing unlikable things.” Years back when I was trying to work my way through the novel’s 700 plus pages, I was of the same mind.  Philip Carey’s infatuation with the thoroughly wicked Mildred and his obsessive pursuit of her was, for me, irritating.  

Brought to life, however, on the Magnus stage though Vern Thiessen’s adaptation of the novel, the characters become more understandable and more likeable.  Even Mildred, searching for her ticket out of poverty, shows a human side.  

Born with a clubfoot, Philip is orphaned as a child and raised by a rigid uncle and his undemonstrative wife. The boy grows up longing for love and beauty.  

After a failed attempt at becoming an artist in Paris, Philip begins medical studies in London where he meets Mildred—a pretty and flirtatious tea shop waitress who only agrees to go out with him when she has no one else. When she runs off with another man and becomes pregnant, she comes back to Philip for help. He dumps his current lady friend, the loving and talented Norah Nesbit, and helps Mildred through her pregnancy, only to lose her again, this time to a friend.  When she eventually returns and he refuses to take her back as a lover, she destroys his paintings.

Ken James Stewart makes a terrific Philip, at times passionate and at other times timid and full of longing. As Mildred, Gabriella Colavecchio shows her character’s vulnerability while at the same time committing some despicable acts.  All the other actors play more than one role which works quite seamlessly. In fact, the talented Paul Van Dyck’s depiction of Philip’s friend and eventual father-in-law Thorpe Athelney is worth the price of admission alone.  

Of Human Bondage runs until March 18. Showtimes are 8 pm Monday-Saturday with matinees on Wednesdays at noon and Saturdays at 2 pm. Visit magnus.on.ca for details.