The Middlemarch Trilogy**** (Orange Tree Theatre Richmond, 25 January 2014)

Posted: January 28, 2014 in Theatre

photo-73Spanning almost 12 hours, including intervals and meal breaks, over 7 hours of actual performance, this is a theatrical endurance test, giving rise to fears that some in an exceptionally aged audience might not survive through to the end. The production, written and directed by Geoffrey Beevers, is an adaptation of George Eliot’s huge novel, set in a rural English town in the 1830s amongst the landed gentry. Instead of telling the story chronologically as in the novel, Beevers has separated out three narrative strands to create three plays which either stand alone or, as here, can be seen together. The plays are: Dorothea’s StoryThe Doctor’s Story and Fred & Mary. The adaptations are clearly a labour of love, using chunks of Eliot’s prose and bringing out her humour, so that much of the production plays like Jane Austen rather than the grittier works more associated with this author. Some scenes are repeated in different plays, cleverly giving a changed perspective on events, adding depth and meaning; gossip in one play becomes fact in another, etc. The arcs of the three main stories are similar, meaning that, by play three, we can see where we are heading well before the half-way mark. Nonetheless, the stories are all engaging and embellished with fascinating period detail. A company of eleven share all the roles, the only confusion coming from the same actor taking leading roles in two of the plays, with nothing to provide a visual distinction between the characters. Almost every actor gets a turn in the spotlight and mostly they are excellent. Played in the round with few props, the lighting and costumes are first class. This is an ambitious project, well crafted and it would be a shame if it does not have a life after its limited run at this small venue.

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