LARK RISE TO CANDLEFORD
by Flora Thompson.
New Perspectives Theatre Company Tour to 22 May 2011.
Runs 2hr One interval.
Review: Carole Woddis 3 March at Highfields School Matlock.
Catches the complexity of times remembered.
Adapting novels can be challenging and hazardous. Some work wonderfully well. Keith Dewhurst’s adaptation of Flora Thompson’s gentle evocation of growing up in the Oxfordshire countryside in the late 19th century caught the weft and warp by turning it into pungent social history.
Produced, in two parts, as promenade productions at both the Cottesloe Theatre in 1978, then almost thirty years later at the tiny Finborough, both it created an atmosphere and bond between performer and audience that managed to mimic the ties which operated in old rural communities and which Thompson so painstakingly sought to recall.
New Perspectives’ director-adaptor Daniel Buckroyd has taken a rather different route. Paring Thompson’s trilogy down to two hours performed by three performer-musicians as a touring version, he has come up with a descriptive rather than an atmospheric distillation, interspersed by snatches of old English folk songs.
Music is the cement that binds, while Ruth Westley, Kate Adams and Morgan Philpott flitting from one character to another, also provide colourful background playing accordions, trombones, banjos and much else besides. Westley is particularly effective as Laura, the narrator, guiding us through the young girl at home experiencing the seasons, school, harvest, the pig-feast (uncomfortable if you’re a vegetarian), leaving to go to her first post office job and ultimately moving away, never to return or be part of that community in the same way.
“Time like a rolling stone bears all its sons away – and its daughters,” muses Laura in the evening’s most heartfelt moment. For Thompson’s message is a mixed one. Less the cosy nostalgia, as Buckroyd points out in his programme note, associated with Lark Rise in its TV version and other costume dramas. Rather, a more profound truth of the grief felt about the Past as a place to which one can never return – except perhaps through art.
Thompson achieved it through her trilogy. Buckroyd, whose previous adaptation of Michael Morpurgo’s Farm Boy proved such a hit, captures Thompson’s detail and creates an evening suffused by golden rays that if lacking in dramatic contrast still tugs at worlds and ways now gone.
Laura: Ruth Westley.
Ensemble: Kate Adams, Morgan Philpott.
Director: Daniel Buckroyd.
Lighting: Oliver Brown.
Musical Director: Matt Marks.
Costume: Becki Islip.