by Laurie Lee adapted by Daniel O’Brien.

Theatre Royal Bury St Edmunds Tour to 29 May 2010.
Runs 2hr 40min One interval.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 24 March at Theatre Royal Bury St Edmunds.

A play for all seasons.
Television has twice done well by Laurie Lee’s book, a remembrance of things past set in a Gloucestershire village during the early 20th century, just as long traditions were being annexed to a newly mobile society. But Daniel O’Brien’s stage version stands comparison.

Though occasionally allocating the cast brief narrative chunks that sound like recitation, it mostly gives the actors, and action, space to develop. From the caricature comedy of warring granny neighbours, Amy Humphreys’ Granny Trill outright humorous, Devon Black’s Granny Wallon contrastingly more, an emblem of life turning in on itself in age, to Antony Eden’s Laurie, his voice marking him out from childhood neighbours in its standardised pronunciation, this is a first-rate ensemble.

Playing multiple roles, they conjuring successive images of village life, often in rapid succession. Yet there’s room for the melancholy of Lee’s sense of separation from his younger self as Abigail Anderson’s consistently inventive production creates a vibrant childhood world.

O’Brien paces events through a single seasonal cycle, though in another timescale years pass. At the start of act one, scared little boys are comforted by their sisters. By the start of act two the boys are contemptuous of the girls, looking for other lads to meet, and fight.

So life progresses as the seasons revolve; what once seemed eternal vanishes into the past. The old die out and the young move to new worlds. And the rural emblems remain, hanging around Dora Schweitzer’s flexibly atmospheric set, while Mark Howland’s lighting evokes hot summers and cold Decembers, when the children go carolling or skate on a frozen lake (Schweitzer’s stage seeming to become a skating rink). All soaked in T J Holmes’ insistently attractive score.

Perhaps act one’s a tad overlong, and the cider scene itself might be more emphasised – though it’s clearly signalled as Amy Humphreys dons a bright red dress to become a smilingly provocative Rosie. Perhaps Eden’s voice might be more tonally varied at times.

But these are minor matters. He is a performer well worth watching (among a fine cast Devon Black also stands out) in an intoxicating Cider with Rosie.

Phyl: Devon Black.
Laurie: Antony Eden.
Tony: T J Holmes.
Doth: Amy Humphreys.
Marge: Joannah Tincey.
Jack: Liam Tobin.

Director: Abigail Anderson.
Designer: Dora Schweitzer.
Lighting: Mark Howland.
Composer/Musical Director: T J Holmes.
Movement: Helen Tennison.
Dialect coach: Mary Howland.

2010-03-25 11:14:27

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