This Review Contains Spoilers
Don't get me wrong though, it was not just enjoyable for some nostalgia of the 60s (which I have to admit I missed by a few decades...). The staging is beautiful, with minimal furniture and a clever use of space. The actors stand alone in the midst of a stage far too vast for them to fill, with few or no objects for them to hold on to. It's the same for the characters, who each go through a summer of confusion, depression, and isolation.
As the second act unfolds, the big challenge for any retelling of the story is to hold the audience's attention when each and every character seems to be more flaw than anything else. This is especially true of Mrs Robinson here, as Catherine McCormack is as terrifyingly cold as she was alluring at the beginning! Even the innocent Elaine Robinson can come across as oversweet amid the spiralling disasters around her. Yet the cast keep you on the edge of your seat. I simply couldn't look away, and felt like I was coming to the story for the first time - and what more can you ask of an adaptation than that it makes you forget the original?
My greatest praise of the play must come alongside my only real criticism. The final scene, with Benjamin (Jack Monaghan) and Elaine (Emma Curtis) running away together, is beautiful and poignant. Sitting together - happy at last - over a box of cereal, it is an almost perfect ending. The ending music is almost painfully cool, and captures the mood of the production brilliantly. And there may be legal of financial reasons for its choice. But no production of The Graduate can ever receive full marks from me without the sound of Simon and Garfunkel...