The Showdown company's adaptation of (to judge by the accents onstage) one of Hardy's Mummerset novels is anchored throughout its three hours upon the expressive central performance of Helena Anton; the caprices and mercurial flickers of Bathsheba Everdene's emotional switchback are well delineated, and for the most part carry us past the anodynes of her three suitors.
Adaptor Barbara Richards continually grapples with the problem of exposition in a single-set play: either narrative is frequently put straight into characters' mouths, or Hardy was often a stilted writer, and I suspect the former. This syndrome combines dangerously with the archetypally Hardyesque plot of Act Two, laden with disappearances, reappearances and a telescoped time-scheme. Against all this, the production is the first I have seen to make such impudent use of the whole of the Theatre Museum's studio space, and augurs well for the venue's renaissance under its new, artistically acute régime.
Written for City Limits magazine.
Copyright © Ian Shuttleworth; all rights reserved.
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