Rustic Antics Fill Theatre.

Far From The Madding Crowd

Walker Theatre

Monday 14th -Tuesday 15th November 2016


Maybe you have sweated over an O’Level Question about Far From The Madding Crowd, or  suffered some arid English Literature lesson wishing the likes of Thomas Hardy had never been born. Fear not rescue is at hand. Hotbuckle Theatre Company have taken this otherwise dusty tome, blown the dust off and breathed new life into the story.

With an ensemble cast of just four players the story romped on with a whole new light shining. Hotbuckle have given new life, vibrancy and vitality to this English classic.

But how you ask?  There was a fusion of theatre styles in play and each complimented the other. Once again, like most touring theatre companies do due to cost, Hotbuckle created a  Brechtian piece through and through, from the dressing on stage, simplicity of set, the use of song, music and dance and of course the dismantling of the fourth wall and building up an intimate relationship with the audience. All  to move the story forward and explore the themes of the text.

The show included all the salient points of the story for example; the sheep poisoning and the rick fires.  Also exploring the love Oak has for Bathsheba,  Boldwood has for Bathsheba and Troy has for Bathsheba. (Yes everyone sure loves Bathsheba) were just a few of the issues that the cast handled with great pathos and sensitivity. The thunderstorm was impressive and just for a moment smacked of genius.

Interestingly,  the company made the unusual decision to introduce comedy and it was successful. The story was mostly told by the incidental characters in a variety of hilarious and beautifully timed, expertly delivered comedy. This wasn’t a belly laugh at Hardy and his antiquainted prose rather an homage to the great writer but in a contemporary way.

The text initially isn’t in the least amusing. However it can be argued that by introducing a contemporary take whilst staying on story brings out the beauty of the literature and illustrates how brilliantly Hardy weaved everyday rustic events into a book that has found its own immortality.

Design was key to making this a tourable show. The set rather like the cast was amazingly versatile and whilst meeting the needs of the entire show,  looked deceptively simple. Once again flashes of genius in the design. Did they really only have a gate and two boxes to create open air scenes, farm house scenes, sunny scenes and winter ones too? It was all found there in this incredibly versatile set.

Technically there must have been many, many lighting cues but everything ran smoothly and the clever way of recording sounds on stage and using that recording on a loop to compliment a scene was clever but sometimes it did distract a little from the text, maybe turning the sounds down a notch would help the deaf ones who insist on sitting at the back.

This is a slick show by an incredibly talented ensemble company. It is pacey, it never drags, maybe if you are a stranger to this book a quick google of the synopsis before you go might help you. Prior knowledge of the story is a distinct advantage. But for all that this is a great night out and there is still chance to see it as it is on for two nights and well worth a watch.

This is a four Star Review.

Owen J. Lewis


Sofia Lewis Sofia Lewis
For many years Sofia wrote here under her male name Owen J. Lewis. She is now mostly writing under her own name of Sofia Lewis. Sofia, who worked on independent radio for over ten years, lives in Shrewsbury and writes plays. She has over 15 titles published and her plays are performed all over the world. She is especially popular in America. Her poetry is also often noted and she writes reams of it most weeks. Since graduating in theatre in 1997 Sofia has been an Actor, Filmmaker, and a Secondary School Teacher. Reviewing theatre is something she thoroughly enjoys and she loves to see great theatre. As a musician Sofia is known throughout the UK she is a folk singer, and is often seen or heard around her native county singing and having fun. Sofia has contributed to for over a decade and enjoys sharing her views on theatre. Sofia has one daughter and grew up in Church Stretton.

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