Tess of the d’Urbervilles, tells the demise of a pretty young girl who is manipulated by two very different men, in ways that explores the profound effect of the naivety of women in the 18th century.
Alec is the first male that Tess encounters, who initially tries to seduce her and then when this doesn’t work manipulates the situation, which changes her life forever.
The second male encounter is Angel, who appears aptly named until Tess on her wedding night confesses her previous wrong doing by Alec, whereby he shows the sanctimonious moral high ground being unforgiving, abandoning her and brings forth a conclusion with devastating consequences.
While Hardy wrote in the 19th century Victorian era, Tess is set in an earlier time and it is a very sad story indeed, one that can still stand the test of time today as thought and discussion provoking material.
With this in mind I was concerned that a classic literary masterpiece by Hardy would have its dramatic meaning with the introduction of music diluted along with the potency and empathy of this piece. However I need not have been concerned, this in itself is a dramatic triumph. The whole cast support and complement each other bringing their individual talents to create the perfect ensemble.
The beautiful voices and instrument playing by the cast, which did remind me of the musical “Once”, along with the simple but extremely clever staging and lighting, gave you the depth of the piece I was looking for.
Tess (Jessica Daley) and Alec’s (Martin Neely) wonderful duet “Forbidden Fruit” with its dramatic red lighting and matador-like theme was an absolute delight showing the darkness of what was to come. Angel (Nick Hayes) perfectly cast, as was everyone, was both enchanting and captivating. His duet with Tess “I Deal in Deals” was vocally stunning by both.
The song “Will You Marry Me” performed by Izz (Sarah Kate Howarth), Marian (Jessica Millward) and Retty (Emma Harold) was perfect in its simplicity and showed their clear vocal talents in all their glory. During the confessions song (The folly of my Youth) which gave me goose-bumps, was so well sung and acted you felt their pain and disappointment.
The second act brought more delights in the form of pulsating rhythmic drums, rustic charms and English folk music themes. You witness Tess developing into adulthood and by doing the right thing by her parents to “claim her kin” actually orchestrated her ultimate devastating demise. When she makes the decision to punish Alec to avenge her loss of innocence, the use of such creative yet simple lighting along with her outstanding acting is a wonder to watch. Followed by the tender reunion with Angel illustrated that she really is still a child wanting to please, and thinking that her deed had solved everything. Of course it doesn’t and the end just seals and completes this sad tale.
This show was an absolute joy to watch and more than worthy of a place on a larger stage or at the very least playing to larger audiences and dare I say it should be seen on a West End stage. There is nothing I could fault with this production and I therefore feel its only right to give it the five stars it deserves. If you are looking for depth, fantastic acting, great movement, sublime singing and music then this is the show for you.
On at New Wimbledon Studio Theatre until 27th September 2014.
Review by Caroline Hanks-Farmer
TESS OF THE D’URBERVILLES
New Wimbledon Studio Theatre
93 The Broadway,
London, SW19 1QG
Tuesday 2nd to Saturday 27th September
Tuesday to Saturday at 7.30pm
Thursday & Saturday matinee at 2.30pm
Tickets: £15.40 (concessions available
(prices include booking fees)
Tickets: 0844 871 7646