Madame Bovary: A note from Jon Nicholson, Adaptor

23 Mar 2016

Liverpool Everyman and Playhouse and Peepolykus production of The Massive Tragedy of Madame Bovary! Directed by Gemma Bodinetz. Cast: Emma Fielding, John Nicholson, Javier Marzan, Jonathan Holmes

We’re so pleased to be returning to Bristol Old Vic with a co-production. We last performed at the theatre in 2004 (with a sold-out retrospective of our early comedies). Since then we’ve been co-producing larger shows with theatres up and down the country (including a West End transfer of our adaptation of The Hound of the Baskervilles).

Peepolykus have secured an international reputation for delivering a unique brand of entertainment.  Now in our 20th year, we are staging one of literature’s most controversial and tragic novels. Why Madame Bovary?

Because it wrestles with the human condition – the aspirations we have for ourselves, delusions, passions, loneliness, disappointments, our struggle for autonomy and happiness. And comedy, for us, must start from a place of honesty and truth. Emma Bovary, the protagonist, has flaws, like us. She isn’t always easy to sympathize with, like us. Flaubert’s original is a non-judgmental and alarmingly honest account of a woman determined to have some control over her life in 19th century France.


In our adaptation, we wanted Emma (played by the double Olivier nominated, Emma Fielding) to have a voice outside of the confines of the novel. We wanted to amplify her emotional journey. We wanted to be more faithful to the heart of the novel than many of the film versions have been. This resulted in a piece of theatre that swings full pelt between clown and tragedy. For some, both the endeavor and the outcome of this will jar. But for the vast majority of the 10,000 or so people who have already seen the production, it doesn’t.

The Massive Tragedy of Madame Bovary might be an untraditional theatrical offering but it has been immensely gratifying to see both school parties and coach parties of over 60’s by turns moved, by turns belly laughing at the unfolding story, and sometimes both at the same time. Most importantly, YOU DON’T NEED TO HAVE READ THE NOVEL!

We very much hope that you will come and see the results.


The Massive Tragedy of Madame Bovary plays at Bristol Old Vic from 27 May-11 Jun 2016. Find out more and book tickets here.