Published: 06:00, 18 February 2020
Sixty years after the impassioned tale Lady Chatterley's Lover shocked the world, a stage version, coming to Dartford this week, presents itself to a very changed world.
DH Lawrence's story, considered sensationalist erotica when first published and banned worldwide, now stands before a world which has seen monumental changes towards female sexuality.
His text caused outrage not just because of the explicit language, but also because it bridged social and class divides.
But today, six decades after the scandalous trial of the unexpurgated publication, a new production reflects the changes in attitude and explores the scars of war and the dangers of toxic masculinity. Above all, Lady Chatterley is still a passionate and optimistic love story.
Trapped in a sexless marriage following her husband’s disability, Connie is burdened with her female duty of care and an increasing sense of isolation. She instigates a physically charged love affair with the gamekeeper, Mellors, flouting expectations and obligations in the name of self- love.
The Tilted Wig and Churchill Theatre, Bromley production, which comes to the Orchard Theatre in Dartford, stars Casualty and Coronation Street's Rupert Hill as the gamekeeper.
But he admits: "I knew very little about the book to be honest. I’m ashamed to say that I think I’d kind of dismissed it as a “50 Shades” of the 1920’s. But I read Ciaran McConville’s script and I thought it was stunning. Very theatrical and immersive and this really excited me. So much so that prior to my audition I decided to prioritise reading the book, over learning my lines - a risky strategy but it paid off."
A Fifty Shades of Grey for its time period, he says: "The book is very explicit but it amuses me that the very people who sought to have the book banned were also the target of its ridicule.
"The bourgeois and arrogant position of dictating what people can or can’t say in their creative pursuits. So stuffy and boring and meanwhile they completely failed to see what a beautiful and progressive love letter to nature Lawrence had written. Life imitated art here quite profoundly."
Many will know Rupert from his days as Jamie Baldwin in Corrie, so this stage adaptation may seem a departure for him.
"One of the major reasons for leaving the Street was because I missed doing theatre. I was worried that I might’ve lost that skillset. It’s a completely different discipline and requires a different approach and respect.
"Theatre is playful and dangerous. It’s very exciting and humbling too. The audience are complicit to the energy in the room and we all go on a sort of journey together."
The dad of two's preparations for the role, besides reading up on the book and its controversy, have also included working with a personal trainer to get into the kind of shape for an ex-soldier now gamekeeper might have.
"Mellors was my favourite character when I read the book and his vision of what a man should be completely blew my mind. He thinks men should be gentle, loving and compassionate.
"He thinks that’s real masculinity. I want to bring this kind of thinking into the performance alongside the dark brooding anger and sadness of the man. I think it’s these mysterious contradictions that make him so compelling. And the fact that he listens to what women think and what they want. He’s a dude."
He will star alongside Phoebe Marshall as Connie in the show at the Orchard Theatre, Dartford, when the show is staged from Thursday, February 20 to Saturday, February 22.
Book at orchardtheatre.co.uk or call 01322 220000.
More by this authorAngela Cole