The Tunnel – Ernesto Sábato

‘The Tunnel of Obsession’

by Ernesto Sábato

Adapted from Ernesto Sábato’s novel and directed by David Graham-Young
Set and lighting designed by David Burrows
Costumes designed by Chrystine Bennett


Castel: Jamie Newall
Maria: Cassandra Holliday
Hunter/Allende: Gordon Milne
Mimi/PostOffice Clerk: Erin Geraghty

at The Warehouse Theatre, Croydon
opened Wednesday 29th October 2003 until Sunday 16th November 2003

The production was also performed as ‘The Tunnel’ at the Edinburgh Festival 2004
from 6th to 30th August at Hill Street Theatre.


Castel: Jamie Newall
Maria: Rebecca Gethings
Hunter/Allende: Gordon Milne
Mimi/PostOffice Clerk: Anna Savva



Edinburgh Festival
"Shuddering, tense and unmissable. While at an exhibition of his own paintings, Juan Pablo Castel notices a strikingly beautiful woman, Maria Iribarne, staring intensely at one particular work. He strikes up an awkward relationship with her and the die is cast. Jamie Newall’s intense and powerful portrayal of the artist Castel in this dramatisation of Ernesto Sabato’s novel, The Tunnel, is one of the best individual performances I have ever seen. As narrator and character, Castel is centre stage and centre of the audience’s attention for most of the play but this isn’t selfish upstaging or egotism. Using Castel as character and narrator makes exposition easy and allows the story to be told in 75 tight minutes. As the plot bowls along, and scary as Castel is, he isn’t able to ruffle the soft, white grace of Maria, played magically by Rebecca Gethings.

Castel’s attachment to Maria is overpowering and flawed. He becomes obsessed that she is deceiving him and she may be but the clever plot does not allow us to know this. This drives both of them towards their inevitable and tragic denouement. As an exposition of the state of mind of the artist, The Tunnel is wonderful. Its conclusions about Castel’s state of mind are debatable and that makes the play all the more interesting.

David Burrows’ sets and Chrystine Bennett’s’ costumes are outstanding and while minimal, the overall impression is high value and sophisticated. David Graham-Young directs and delivers."

© Max Blinkhorn 7th August 2004. Published on
(5 star rating)

"Adaptations are an uncertain business and all too frequently seem off-key but David Graham-Young’s effort is spot on and this production is a powerful and electrifying reworking of Argentinian novel El Tunel. Jamie Newall gives a magnetic, passionate and eerily convincing performance as artist Castel who is repugnantly obsessive as he tries to seduce, own and dominate the beautiful but wayward Maria, played by Rebecca Gethings. His is an absurd and frightful form of love that chillingly teeters on the psychotic before finally falling into oblivion. We are told from the start that he murders her – he simply wants one of us to understand him. The audience was transfixed and this adaptation is a certain triumph."

JS in Three Weeks ****
(4 star rating)


The Warehouse Theatre, Croydon
“At 93, Ernesto Sabato must be the elder statesman of Argentine literature, and he is honoured by a highly serviceable adaptation of his 1948 novel. It’s the tale of a tortured artist who becomes obsessed with a married woman he sees in a gallery looking at one of his paintings. Starting with the artist writing his memoirs in prison, he relates how he came to know, love and then murder the woman.
On the face of it, it’s your basic love triangle seen through a mind poisoned by jealousy. But the writing also has a furtive, Kafkaesque feel, which suggests that it is also a metaphor for the state of Argentina under Peron. More absorbing for today’s audience is the abiding psychological complexity of the yarn.
It has clearly been a labour of love for David Graham-Young, but his devotion to Sabato’s story has, thankfully, not resulted in his emulating the hero and murdering the object of his affection… Jamie Newall is enormously impressive as the neurotic artist who is embittered by critical acclaim, and his performance is every bit as obsessive-compulsive as his homicidally jealous character. He is supported well by Cassandra Holliday as the enigmatic amour as well as Gordon Milne and Erin Geraghty in assorted roles… This is a strong piece of work affording a spyglass view of Sabato’s writing.”
Patrick Marmion, Time Out

Argentinian author Ernesto Sabato hit the jackpot in 1948 with his first novel El Tunel. Told as the confession of a convicted murderer, it was not only an intriguing tale, but also added an Hispanic voice to the literature of existentialism as well as slaking the fashionable North American thirst for psychological mysteries.
His book eventually went into 28 translations, was an international best seller, and is now taught in the Spanish-speaking world as a contemporary classic. But if the plot was too allusive for Hollywood film-noir, David Graham-Young’s cunningly crafted adaptation is a dark 80-mintue psychodrama that deserves to be subtitled Hitchcock Blond 2.
The blond in question, the Grace Kelly role, is played with eye-catching ethereal beauty by Cassandra Holliday. One afternoon stopping by at a fashionable Buenos Aires gallery, she is watched by an artist as she studies the tiny corner of one of his paintings, moved by a fragmentary image of a young woman trapped within a window frame.
The artist, convinced that she is the only person on earth to understand his work is suddenly seized with an all-consuming passion to possess her. A brief encounter follows and they become lovers. But when her blind husband appears he becomes so inflamed with jealousy that tragedy eventually strikes, the climax to Sabato’s intense study of a troubled, obsessive relationship.
As the imprisoned artist, explaining away his motives and his guilt, Jamie Newall gives a mesmerising, resonantly spoken performance that deserves to move this fine actor into the major league.
A powerfully structured soundtrack, by promising audio artist Nic Gray, a model of its kind, supports but never subverts the action. And there is even a brief moment of atmospheric tango, tentatively danced by Gordon Milne and Erin Geraghty who also play all the other parts.
John Thaxter, What On in London **** (Four star rating)

“One man’s neurotic tendencies, paranoia, passions and obsessions are acted out on the stage of the Warehouse Theatre, Croydon in the world premiere of David Graham-Young’s Tunnel of Obsession.
Based on the Argentine novel, El Tunel by Ernesto Sabato, it is hard to imagine how this popular classic could be adapted for the English stage so well… The part of Castel has many dimensions and is brought to life so well by Jamie Newall, who manages to draw the audience into Castel’s mind while also distancing them from him.
Although it is set in Argentina, taking place in Buenos Aires and countryside estancias (ranches), the play could be set anywhere as it focuses on the human mind and the way love and obsession can change it.
Castel takes us on a journey of desperation and torment as he discovers that Maria is not all she seems. His neuroses are balanced by Maria’s cold and detached character, perfectly played by Holliday.
The Tunnel of Obsession is a great study of the human condition. It shows a deep understanding of obsessive love while leaving us questioning and wanting more.”
Kentish Times

“Buenos Aires has given us very great writers: Borges, Cortazar and Sabato, the prophet”
Le Magazine Litteraire

Ernesto Sabato won the Cervantes Prize for Literature (the equivalent of the Nobel Prize for Literature in Hispanic Languages) and has published many novels and essays. This haunting and intriguing work has been translated into 28 languages and is widely recognised as a classic of twentieth century literature.


1 comentario (+¿añadir los tuyos?)

  1. Sharyl
    May 30, 2013 @ 18:38:16

    Very good article. I am going through many of these issues as well.



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