Theatre / Feature

All you need to know about Captain Corelli’s Mandolin

The Louis de Bernières novel gets the stage adaptation it deserves.

Captain Corelli’s Mandolin transfers to the West End after a wildly successful tour across the UK.

The creative team behind this production include Rona Munro, who adapted the novel into this sparkling script, and Melly Still in the director’s chair. Still has Olivier and Tony nominations to her name for her direction of Coram Boy.

Telling a classic forbidden love story against the backdrop of Italian occupied Greece during the Second World War, Captain Corelli’s Mandolin mixes hope of human resilience with heartbreak.

Captain Corelli's Mandolin


What is Captain Corelli’s Mandolin about?

The story begins on the Greek island of Kefalonia on the brink of the Second World War. On this idyllic island, the conflict seems like a distant nightmare to Dr Iannis, his strong-willed daughter, Pelagia, and the island’s inhabitants. Yet when the war comes for their young men, including Pelagia’s fiancé Mandras, a local fisherman, things begin to unravel.

In 1941, the Italian forces with their German allies occupy Kefalonia. The Greek residents are forced to open up their homes to the invaders with Captain Antonio Corelli billeted at Dr Iannis and Pelagia’s house. They swear to hate their enemy, despite his infectious love of music his proficiency with the mandolin.

Also posted to Kefalonia is Italian solder, Carlo, who arrives on on the island war-weary, unlike his cheery Captain Corelli.

Pelagia and Corelli’s close proximity makes her vow to remain enemies difficult. Burgeoning feelings are hard to deny but how can their relationship survive an increasingly violent war?

Captain Corelli's Mandolin


Who stars in Captain Corelli’s Mandolin?

Pelagia is played with a brilliantly cast dry humoured Madison Clare and, opposite her, Alex Mugnaioni is Captain Corelli in an enigmatic performance as the enemy-occupier. His playing of the mandolin live on stage gives his musical courtship of Pelagia a tender credibility.

Pelagia’s father, Dr Iannis, is played by Joseph Long and her estranged fiancé, Mandras, by Ashley Gayle. Ryan Donaldson portrays Carlo with a pathos that grows stronger throughout the play until it meets its crushing crescendo.

The lead cast are a part of an ensemble of 15 actors and singers who make up Kefalonia’s inhabitants, troops from both sides of the war, and even the odd animal. In particular, Luisa Guerreiro’s performance as the family goat edges extremely close to stealing the show.

Captain Corelli's Mandolin


What can audiences expect from Captain Corelli’s Mandolin?

The set, the lighting, and, most importantly, the actors see the production leap from the stage. Battles, earthquakes, and fishing trips are all brought to life by a backdrop seemingly made of beaten copper, a mercurial base for projections that evoke the ocean or the relief of Kefalonia’s hills and mountains.

Every moment of wartime action is explosive, yet it only takes a moment to bathe the stage in warm light to bring you back to sunny Kefalonia. The islanders soft, sun-bleached clothing and the natural colours of the props juxtapose the harshness of war to come.

Music is at the centre of this production, including the Italian troop’s love of opera and even a brief excerpt of Lovefool by the Cardigans. The musical heart of the play is Antonio’s mandolin. When he plays he is joined by violin strings, the cast join in for a haunting delivery, and all transforms from the tranquility of the Mediterranean to the crushing force of war.

It’s here where Captain Corelli’s Mandolin shines brightest. The war never hides behind the central love story, instead tackling the realities of bloody conflict with power and sensitivity. Love and hate sit side by side, underpinned by a production designed to transform London’s West End into the uncertainty of war-torn beauty.

Captain Corelli's Mandolin


What are critics saying about Captain Corelli’s Mandolin?

“Shocking and wondrous” ★★★★ – The Guardian

“Wartime romance plucks at the heartstrings” ★★★★ – Evening Standard

“A fleet muscular retelling. Liable to bring a lump to the throat” ★★★★ – The Telegraph

“Blissful wartime romance. Wonderfully true to the much-loved book. BRAVO” ★★★★ – The Times


What else do I need to know?

Captain Corelli’s Mandolin is running until 31 August 2019 at The Harold Pinter Theatre, London.

The play is 2 hours and 40 minutes long with an interval.


Tickets for Captain Corelli’s Mandolin at London’s Harold Pinter Theatre are available now through Ticketmaster.co.uk.

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