Sunday, October 16, 2011


Theatre at Baddow

Based on a story by Thomas Hardy, Frank Harvey's play is a powerful melodrama. Its best characters are rounded and psychologically intriguing, and though the plot development contains few surprises – no shortage of signposts in this part of Wiltshire – we are kept enthralled till the final curtain.

Claire Lloyd is impressive as Edith, trapped in a loveless, childless marriage to a blinkered brewery owner [Jesse Powis]. She has taken under her wing a childhood friend from the lower orders [a wonderfully convincing Vicky Wright] and finds herself writing, ostensibly on her behalf, ardent love letters to the man she met at the fair – Bruce Thompson's ambitious young barrister. Well, it's a fair bet there'll be tears on the day of the wedding – but her gentleman friend does the decent thing and, we assume, they all live miserably ever after.

Mike Nower's production tellingly dissects the relationships and the motives of this Victorian household, which is further complicated by Edith's spinster sister-in-law [a splendidly starchy Sara Nower]. The letter-writing scenes are skilfully crafted, and the final showdown is suitably dramatic.

The cramped but well-dressed set, the superb costumes [Edith's navy and white frock especially caught the eye] give a good sense of place and period; only the language occasionally jars - “OK” not an expression often heard in nineteenth-century Salisbury …

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