ANNE of Green Gables is one of those stories that many people remember from their youth, in my case from a Sunday evening BBC dramatisation in the 1970s watched by all the family in the days when we only had three channels, and the story itself fosters the same sort of nostalgia in audiences when it crops up on the stage or screen. A new, 13-part TV adaptation has begun filming this year, and a musical version tours its home of Canada annually.
Forest Forge, the New Forest-based theatre company, have therefore chosen well for their annual Christmas show, and the four actors bring a wonderful vibrancy to the many characters in the story. Hermione Halpin, in the title role, is the only actor with just one part, and she does it complete justice, with a wonderful naivety and the believable stubbornness of teenage years. Thomas Brownlee, Stacey Evans and Julie Rose Smith play at least three characters each, not limited in any way by age or gender, and bring strong comic timing and a variety of character voices to all examples. Changes of character and costume are often achieved within a few seconds, showing the professional skill and craft of actors and wardrobe designer.
The show within the show, where four students perform at their school, gives great comic opportunity, with Stacey Evans as Ruby Gillis provoking audible laughs from all ages with her clumsy clomping through the Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy.
The highlight of the show, however, is the singing from all four actors in the traditional songs interspersed throughout, bringing an “O Brother, Where Art Thou” feel to the production. Julie Rose Smith’s voice in particular brought a sweet poignancy to the Christmas favourite “O Holy Night”.
This is a delightful story, living up to the spirit of the original book, well adapted by Russ Tunney, tightly directed by Kirsty Davis, wonderfully acted and beautifully sung. Catch some great local theatre, heartily recommended for people of all ages, throughout the rest of December and January all over the South, ending at Poole Lighthouse on 1st February.
This performance was on Wednesday 18th December 2013. The tour continues until Saturday 1st February.