Saturday, September 06, 2008


Theatreworks at Hylands House


The storm winds ominously stir the great oaks. Early autumn leaves fall among the nuptial petals.

Hardy's Tess would feel at home in the Stables at Hylands, and the courtyard made a good auditorium, despite some minor problems on this first occasion.

Ali Gorton's version for Theatreworks told the sad story with a simple clarity, never overdoing the sentiment or the humour. The minimal scenery had the standing stones as a brooding symbol throughout. The dramatic impetus was often strong, with confrontations and conversations helping the themes unfold.

I was less happy with the woodland spirits and the druids, and the pantomime horse should have been axed early in rehearsal.

Natalie Ball was impressive as the troubled, tragic Tess, with all her insecurities and ingenuousness. Confusingly, Dominic Ward was both Angel and Alec, never really convincing as either. Felicity Brooks was a strong Izz, amongst several other supporting roles, and Alice Parsloe had good presence both as the mother and old Mrs D'Urberville. Excellent character work from Miles Chambers in a myriad of incarnations, many of them authentically rustic.

The denouement was sensitively handled, and despite the weather, the sizeable audience had a great evening's theatre. This was the last date in a national tour which included some very prestigious venues; I hope Theatreworks will want to come back to the stable yard next season.

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