Far From The Madding Crowd
14th November 2018
TheGuildhall Theatre, Derby
Type of Production
Author: Joyce Handbury
Far from the Madding Crowd, a classic novel by Thomas Hardy, has been adapted for the stage by Mark Healy. The play is set in the the south-west of England during the Victorian era and tells the story of Bathsheba Everdene who inherits a sheep farm from her uncle that she chooses to manage herself, without the help of a man. She is pursued by three suitors: a kind and dependable shepherd, Gabriel Oak, a prosperous bachelor, William Boldwood and a rakish, petulant soldier, Frank Troy.
The set consisted of two wooden structures, one having an upper level, either side of the stage that served to depict the various scene locations and with the addition of appropriate props was quite sufficient to feed our imagination. The lighting and sound effects were excellent especially those representing the sheep going over the cliff, the barn fire and the storm. Costumes were in keeping with the times and the musical interludes were super.
Emily Marshall-Sims was most impressive as Bathsheba Everdene. She portrayed the various aspects and emotions of the character with great assurance and confidence. Toby Bradford was outstanding as Gabriel Oak. He delivered a powerful yet gentle representation of Gabriel who once owned his own sheep farm but following a terrible disaster found himself seeking work as a shepherd after having to sell up and emerging penniless. He managed to evoke our sympathy for his unrequited love and rejection from Bathsheba so much so, that at the end when they did eventually get together, I almost felt like cheering for him but at the same time feeling antipathy towards Bathsheba for not realising sooner that he was ‘the one’ - but then, we would have been watching a very different play! Joshua Sly put in a good performance as Sergeant Frank Troy, the chemistry between himself and Fanny was really touching and the obvious distress over her death was so moving. Adam Guest was every inch the outwardly arrogant, pompous, obsessive, wealthy, gentleman farmer. Eventually Bathsheba does agree to marry him in six years time when Troy, who she married but was thought to have drowned, could be declared dead. However, Troy is not dead and returns to claim his wife but is shot dead by Boldwood who is later confined at ‘Her Majesty’s pleasure’. Fanny Robin was delightfully played by Brianna Undy and Marie Stone was splendid as Liddy Smallbury.
Top notch support and most of the humour came from those in minor roles with all of the actors doubling up as different characters. The ‘social gatherings’ were just sublime. I must mention Sheila Kay Sly as Soberance Miller who beautifully played the recorder and Mat Williams as Laban Tall whose violin playing and singing were superb. Under the innovative and creative guidance of Director Barry Taylor together with an excellent cast and everyone else involved, this play proved to be a very praiseworthy production.