The Postman Always Rings Twice

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Previewed 24 May 2005, Opened 8 June 2005, Closed 3 September 2005 at the Playhouse Theatre in London

A new stage adaptation by Andrew Rattenbury of the original James M. Cain's 1930s crime thriller The Postman Always Rings Twice in London starring Val Kilmer and Charlotte Emmerson and directed by Lucy Bailey.

When Frank drifts into their roadside cafe, Greek immigrant Nick and his American wife Cora have no idea of the devastating effect he'll have on their lives. But then Frank and Cora begin a passionate affair that leads to murder, double-crossing and dubious courtroom deals...

The cast for The Postman Always Rings Twice in London features Val Kilmer as 'Frank' and Charlotte Emmerson as 'Cora' along with Joseph Alessi, Rae Baker, Keith Bartlett, Aran Bell, Mac McDonald, Ian Pirie and Adam Rayner. It is directed by Lucy Bailey with designs by Bunny Christie, lighting by Nigel Edwards, fights by Renny Krupinski, music by Django Bates and sound by Mic Pool. This production comes into London's West End following a season at the West Yorkshire Playhouse where it was originally seen with a different cast.

"A terrific piece of theatre - Val Kilmer delivers a splendid performance. I was enthralled" The London Evening Standard

The author James M Cain said: "I make no conscious effort to be tough, or hard-boiled, or grim, or any of the things I am usually called. I merely try to write as the character would write, and I never forget that the average man, from the fields, the streets, the bars, the offices and even the gutters of his country, has acquired a vividness of speech that goes beyond anything I could invent, and that if I stick to this heritage, this logos of the American countryside, I shall attain a maximum of effectiveness with very little effort."

"Lucy Bailey's production is steaming with suppressed sexuality" The Daily Express

"It is an overwrought, heaving bosom of a story, the kind of thing that strives for hard-boiled noir, but comes out as half-baked gris instead. Given the lurid nature of the plot - the characters are too busy lusting to go in much for slothfulness, but otherwise, the seven deadly sins are well represented - Lucy Bailey's production is surprisingly dull and epically slow. For much of the second half, it becomes a drama about insurance policies... There is no doubt that a lot has been thrown at this production... for a start, Bunny Christie's extravagant set is scene-stealing enough to demand a limo and personal trainer all of its own. From its neon sign to its grimy menu, the Twin Oaks Tavern is authentically seedy... When the full-scale car accident occurs, however, it becomes clear just how hard this set is working for its money. It soon becomes distracting, and Val Kilmer can't quite compete, even if he is the big-name muscle (quite literally)... As a relic of a mythic America, The Postman Always Rings Twice retains a dusty cachet; as a West End show, however, this is a potboiler that has long since boiled dry." The Sunday Times

"Charlotte Emmerson thrills as Cora - great on-stage chemistry" The Independent

"The plays 'international casting' director Jim Carnahan must have felt he had done well to persuade Val Kilmer to take the leading role, but I fear he persuaded him ten years too late. The actor is carrying a lot of weight these days and that, together with a curiously expressionless face, poor vocal projection and the director Lucy Bailey's perverse need to have him deliver so many lines from a prone position, makes for a curiously inanimate object centre-stage for much of the play. It is debatable whether any actor could have done an awful lot, however, with Andrew Rattenbury's lines: though the playwright's unshowy, matter-of-fact style might work perfectly well for Casualty, Holby City and The Bill, it makes for unappetising, stagnant theatre. The final straw is Bunny Christie's set. Quite what she thought she was doing having the car in which Nick was killed come crashing through the ceiling is anyone's guess. And it is even more mystifying why the thing had to remain there throughout the whole of the second act, causing all sorts of health-and-safety implications for the cast, who had to try to act around it." The Sunday Telegraph

"Lucy Bailey's steamy production of James M Cain's murderous erotic thriller The Postman Always Rings Twice has been packed off to London from the West Yorkshire Playhouse. Alas, much has been lost in transit. It isn't helped by having the two-storey set - flyblown diner downstairs, murder most foul upstairs - squashed into a stage a third of the size of the one in Leeds. Moreover, pretty much everything comes to a grinding halt with the car crash in which Cora and her lover bump off her Greek husband." The Mail on Sunday

"Val Kilmer may be a little weightier in the face and body now than in his heyday, but he's lost none of the visceral power that dominated the screen... While Charlotte Emmerson's Cora is a hot, slinky, almost feral creature and the connection she creates with Kilmer's Frank as they go at it on tables, the floor and over the car bonnet is intense, Kilmer fails to ignite a wider passion until he is given free rein in the second half to destroy the set. Despite excellent direction, a slick set and a production that does all it can with Cain's story, Postman is a bit, well, second class." The Observer

James Mallahan Cain was born in 1892 into an Irish family in Maryland. Although the family attended mass regularly, by the age of 13 Cain did not believe a word of the "whole mumbo-jumbo, especially the confessional, where I was faking and suddenly knew that the priest knew it." An aptitude for first-person confessions was to stand him in good stead in his writing career. In 1926 Cain wrote a play, Crashing the Pearly Gates, about economic conflict and sexual temptation in the coalfields, but it closed after a week. In 1931, when Paramount offered him $400 a week to be a scriptwriter, he moved out to Hollywood. Released after his first studio contract there, Cain continued to write articles and also began a novel he called Bar-B-Que. It took him six months to write what was eventually published in 1934 as The Postman Always Rings Twice. It set new standards of 'hard-boiledness'; the New York Times reviewer called it a "six-minute egg" and Cain was suddenly in great demand. His next project was an eight-part serial for Liberty magazine called Double Indemnity. Both these pieces were made into films by Billy Wilder, with screenplay by Wilder and Raymond Chandler. Cain's style was sparse, which is the way he believed writing should be at the time of the Depression in America. His preference was for a first-person narrator, with the male characters tending towards the self-destructive or manipulated by stronger women. His talent for dialogue and the confessional form gave his narratives the suspense only achieved by other writers through the medium of a detective. He also tried to avoid any moralising. In France, Cain was considered to be one of the most important American writers and The Postman Always Rings Twice is said to have inspired Albert Camus' existential novel The Outsider. Cain died in 1977 at the age of 85.

The Postman Always Rings Twice in London at the Playhouse Theatre previewed from 24 May 2005, opened on 8 June 2005 and closed on 3 September 2005.