Fiddler on the Roof

Date 1st November 2018
Society Viva Theatre Company
Venue The Granary Estates, Woodditton
Type of Production Musical
Director Sarah Dowd
Musical Director Jennifer Tayler-Surridge
Choreographer Sinead Mathias and Tiago Medeiros


Author: Julie Petrucci

Fiddler on the Roof is set in the small Jewish village of Anatevka, Russia, in 1905 and is concerned primarily with the efforts of Tevye, a dairyman, his wife, Golde, and their five daughers to cope with their harsh existence under Tsarist rule.  As well as the well-known songs like Tradition, Matchmaker, If I were a Rich Man and Sunrise, Sunset we were treated to a series of love stories set against the cruel backdrop of an Anti-Semitic Russia.  

With strong and imaginative direction from Sarah Dowd, good choreography from Sinead Mathias and Tiago Medeiros, and a mellifluous eleven piece orchestra under the musical direction of Jennifer Tayler-Surridge  Viva were very successful in delivering this traditional musical.

The Granary Estates Barn at Woodditton lent itself well as a performance space which was imaginatively used.  Tevye’s ingeniously designed multi-purpose cart worked a treat morphing as it did into the family’s dining table and even Tevye & Golde’s bed at one point.   Hay bales etc created a corner of Tevye’s barn whilst the other corner held a cupboard with the family’s crockery etc.  Other areas of the village, the tailor’s, butcher’s, inn were all cleverly depicted with the use of large pieces of furniture all nicely mobile to keep the scene changes smooth.  However, with the audience on three sides and the cart being very large the front row, face-on to the action, became pretty involved once or twice.

Costumes (Gail Baker) effectively noted the time period and the differences between the Jews and the Russians, although I would have been happier if The Constable had dispensed with the fur draped round his overcoat.  Hair and make up (Angela Schumann) was good. The authentic beard growth was impressive though unfortunately it caused the few false ones to look more obvious.   The props (Heather Goodwin and Maggie Brackenridge) were very impressive and well managed.  The wonderful masks for the animals and the Tevye’s dream sequence were under the supervision of Radha Bilimoria and were absolutely amazing.  I have seen Nigel Thompson expertly design lighting for several venues and his design at The Granary Estates barn did not disappoint adding a good atmosphere to a difficult to light venue.

Dominating the stage throughout Richard Dodd made Tevye his own.  He had a good grasp of the character, creating a believable relationship with his wife and daughters.  He has a splendid voice and a commanding presence. Whenever he was dealing with his wife, a tremendously strong Samantha Gallop, there was the electricity of a true relationship. So too with his three eldest daughters and we enjoyed several tender moments.

The three eldest daughters, were exceptionally well played by Dresden Goodwin (Tzeitel), Phyllida Hickish (Hodel) and Emma Gilbey (Chava).who all gave strong performances in their contrasting roles. Dresden and Phyllida particularly have lovely singing voices.  Some extremely moving moments were from Hodel and Tevye at the train station, and when Tevye walks away from Chava.  Though not called upon often, the two younger daughters Tara Gilbey (Bielke) and Elisha Cardwell (Sprintze) played their part in creating a family unit. There was a real family struggle feel to the scene as Teyve’s family is packing up to leave with Chava and Fyedka endeavouring to speak to Tevye and Golde to say goodbye.

Oliver Squires gave an adroit performance as Motel the tailor.  A lovely study in goodness, and quiet determination.  As the radical student Perchik, Mark O’Reilly was easy to watch.. Maybe just slightly lacking in emotion but a young actor with obvious potential. 

There were numerous fine performances from those in supporting roles, David Moat (Constable), Frank Crosby (Lazar Wolf), Benny Alves (Mendel), Geoff Fisher (Mordcha),  Dylan Cardwell (Fyedka) and particularly Bridget Hickish as Yente, the meddling matchmaker, who drew every ounce of the humour from the role…  It’s a shame that not everyone was able to adopt the accents, those who did, sounded authentic and were consistent.

Throughout the ensemble were completely involved creating a wonderful flavour of traditional village life.  The interaction with the audience and each other, the singing - particularly Sunrise, Sunset - and dancing were excellent.  The mixture of intimate relationships, tradition, history and village life all came together in a stunning, nightmarish visualisation of The Dream - like a Marc Chagall painting brought to life by good choreography and excellent ensemble movement. 

Sarah Dowd’s Fiddler highlighted the very talented actors and actresses Viva has. Here was a musical full of fine singing and dancing, good tunes and wry humour in a production that made you see and feel a people surviving through intolerance and loss; suddenly it all seems very timely again.

Love or hate the show this production was so well done that anyone who saw it will not have left without admitting (even if only to themselves) they enjoyed it.  Bravo Viva - again!