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Far from the Madding Crowd

by Thomas Hardy
Adapted by Matthew White
21-24 May 2003

Colin Pile
Bathsheba Everdene
Yvonne Henley
Gabriel Oak
Paul Dodman
Mrs Hurst
Jan Singfield
Liddy Smallwood
Jan Stevenson
Jan Coggan
David Pile
Joseph Poorgrass
Joe Brooks
Mr Boldwood
Dave Williams
Fanny Robin
Tracey Nicholls
Sergeant Troy
Tom Williams

Barry Baynton
Carolyn Hewitt
Caroline Uwins
Jackson Ellen
Meredith Tyson-Brown

Tony Feltham
Company Stage Manager
Barry Baynton
Lighting & Sound
Russell Parker & Don Sherry / Tivoli Theatre
Carolyn Hewitt
Theatre Stage Manager
Steve Charters

Far from the Madding Crowd - Wimborne Drama, Tivoli Theatre

THEY pulled it off.

Wimborne Drama's production of Far from the Madding Crowd at Wimborne's Tivoli Theatre was an ambitious project, but it worked.

It goes without saying that Thomas Hardy's work is much loved in the Wimborne area, if nothing else because of the strong local connection. The author lived at Lanherne in The Avenue for a short period and Horton Tower featured in the cock-fighting scene in the 1967 screen adaptation.

The film starring Julie Christie, Alan Bates, Terence Stamp and Peter Finch is a hard act to follow, but Tony Feltham, who has been a member of the club for 20 years, deserves congratulations for his directorial debut.

The required frequent change of scenes could have presented problems but there was an effective solution. An empty stage became a sheep filled field, a country house or a flower filled wood simply by the projection of photos on a screen at the back of the stage. In addition, cast members subtly moved pieces of furniture when the lights dimmed.

The main cast members, Yvonne Henley as Bathsheba, who was loved and admired by three men of contrasting character, Dave Williams as Mr Boldwood, Paul Dodman as Gabriel Oak and Tom Williams as Sergeant Troy, were all excellent portrayals, but on this occasion, I would particularly like to congratulate three actors in smaller, yet important roles.

Joe Brooks, veteran of 50 productions for Wimborne Drama, stole the stage on several occasions with his portrayal of Joseph Poorgrass, a simple soul with a liking for the odd glass or three.

Jan Stevenson is frequently cast in the role of a servant - on this occasion she was Liddy Smallwood - but she does it with great panache and with a subtle humour.

Thirdly Dave Pile, a relaxed and confident actor was definitely on form as farm worker Jan Coggan.

The production was well attended, and remarks I overheard as I left the theatre were all positive. Well done Wimborne Drama.

Marilyn Ayres
Wimborne Community Magazine

Liddy (Jan Stevenson) & Bathsheba (Yvonne Henley)
Fanny (Tracey Nicholls) & Troy (Tom Williams)
Boldwood (Dave Williams)
Gabriel (Paul Dodman) & Bathsheba (Yvonne Henley)  
Poorgrass (Joe Brooks) & Coggan (David Pile)

Dramatic story can't fail to grip

THOMAS Hardy's vividly descriptive prose easily conjures up for readers the world his characters inhabit, and film adaptations have the undoubted benefit of location shooting.

A stage production has neither of these things, so in that respect Tony Feltham's directorial debut had the odds stacked against it from the beginning.

I had no complaints with characterisation, as Bathsheba Everdene (Yvonne Henley), her suitors Sergeant Troy (Tom Williams), Mr Boldwood (Dave Williams), Gabriel Oak (Paul Dodman) and those surrounding them came convincingly to life.

However, the bare stage and numerous scenes, with props going on and off, became irritating an distracting. Back-wall slides depicting season and location changes worked well up to a point, but there was never any clear indication of the time span between scenes which would have helped make the story's progress clearer. And there were several occasions when on-stage conversations became all-too private - Gabriel Oak, in particular, seemed loath to share his words with the audience.

Costumes, too, were not always as in period as they should have been, with some rather too beautifully tailored trousers and shiny shoes. And where were Sergeant Troy's army-issue long-johns when he undressed prior to his faked suicide?

But nonetheless I found myself gripped by the dramatic storyline.

Daily Echo



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