When Christina Rossetti’s Goblin Market was first published, people believed it was for children. This wasn’t helped by the author’s own prevarications, but even the most cursory reading should have alerted people to the contrary. If not, then this adaptation by Liverpool University Drama Society certainly would.
In an unspecified medieval setting (something favoured by Pre-Raphaelites), sisters Lizzie and Laura fear to hear the goblin men’s cry; with memories of the fallen Jeanie fresh in their minds, they know the dangers. But when Lizzie succumbs to temptation, it’s up to Laura to redeem her.
This particular interpretation of the narrative poem is interesting in that it straddles the line between ham-fistedness and vivid elegance. Focusing on the less-subtle sexual subtext, the play opens with a Regan MacNeil-esque Jeanie in bridal-wear reciting Rossetti’s original stanzas. The goblins have a tangible air of menace as they clamber over the audience growling “come buy”. Their elaborate costumes and make-up are also impressive. The rest of the show, however, is slightly obtuse but for a beautifully choreographed seduction sequence loaded with all the eroticism of Rossetti’s original text. The play doesn’t do a bad job of transposing the poem but leaves so much unexplored.