The Postman Always Rings Twice

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.

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."

"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

"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

"Despite the director Lucy Bailey's best efforts to give it a cinematic feel, no amount of lighted cigarettes and moody shadows on the wall can hide the leaden moments... Andrew Rattenbury's adaptation shows that the original novel was not just about obsession but also about how lives can be governed by sex, money and betrayal. And Charlotte Emmerson as Cora is a sensual bundle of hurt and ambition with Joseph Alessi doubling splendidly as the doomed husband and a wily lawyer." The Times

"As designer Bunny Christie manages to crash a car through its roof, the set for this play has to be the most spectacular in London. It's the kind of set that seems to rather resent the presence of actors. In the case of leading man Val Kilmer, I can see why. When you think of mean drifter Frank Chambers, you think of Jack Nicholson in the second film of James M. Cain's novel. Or, for those old enough or who've seen it on TV, John Garfield in the original. Kilmer doesn't have the presence or the power of either. He's a little too old and a little too podgy for the part. And, despite a lot of writhing about on the floor, there's no real sexual chemistry between him and Cora (Charlotte Emerson). Cora, locked in a loveless marriage with Californian roadhouse owner Nick (Joe Alessi), wants out and wants his money. A bungled murder attempt by the illicit lovers followed by the real thing, brings out the worst in Cora while Frank reverts to 'a no-good bum not worth a dime'. Alessi, who also plays a wily lawyer, is the best thing in Lucy Bailey's fast, furious but unconvincing production." The Sun

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.