THOMAS Hardy’s story The Woodlanders is a classic of doomed and unrequited love, social climbing and sacrifice.
The New Hardy Players, based on the group with which the writer himself was associated, chose the Emily Fearn adaptation of the story for the 2013 production, and, sadly for them, chose the late rather than hot and dry early summer for the tour.
Last Friday’s performance on Bridport’s Millennium Green was blighted by drizzle, then rain, then threatening clouds, as the audience huddled in the unfamiliar chill, several of them bringing dogs to the show.
The production was directed by Tim Laycock, Emma Hill and Carole Redhouse, with musician Tim appearing as Tim Tangs, and keeping his concertina dry in one of the tents at the side of the stage. Thanks to him the musical element of the show was a delight, from the raucous singing of the villagers to the trio and quartet of singers interspersing the action.
From time to time the cast donned tatter-jackets to indicate the trees that grew all around around around the village of Hintock.
There Giles Winterbourne, poignantly played by Connor Dooley, tried to re-establish his lifelong romance with Grace Melbury (Sophie Cridland) a village girl sent to fine education by her proud father. When she returned and was taken in by the suave but lascivious Dr Fitzpiers, in an impressive performance by Robert Cole, Giles’s life was in ruins.
The typically Hardyesque story progresses through ill advised marriage, disappointment, early death and solitary mourning as the displaced Grace discovers the error of her ways, and Marty South, the woman who truly loves Giles, is bereft.
There were some stylish and effective ideas in this production, and some fine performances which included delightful cameos and humourous moments, but it suffered from a lack of integration which might have been cured by one directional overview.