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Newbury Dramatic Society - Tess of The d’Urbervilles

3rd to 6th April 2013.

Review from the Newbury Weekly News.

Strong cast for Hardy tragedy

Tess of the d'Urbervilles is a bleak tale well told by Newbury Dramatic Society

Newbury Dramatic Society: Tess of the d'Urbervilles, at The Watermill, Bagnor, from Wednesday, April 3 to Saturday, April 6

By all accounts, Thomas Hardy felt strongly about his character Tess and described her as 'a pure woman, faithfully presented'. Published in 1891, it first appeared in censored form in an illustrated newspaper - censored because it challenged the standards of behaviour at the time and the terrible double standards that are sometimes still reflected in attitudes found even in the present day, over 100 years later.

Tess is seen as a poor but right thinking young woman of her time, keen to better herself but anxious to preserve decent standards of behaviour and to help support herself and her family. She is treated with contempt by Alec d'Urberville, who she hopes to persuade is her relation by reason of her name, Durbyfield, a corruption of d'Urberville.

Tess is raped by Alec as she sleeps, and gives birth to a sickly son who soon dies. Later, working on a dairy farm, she meets and falls in love with Angel Clare, a handsome young man who confesses an earlier affair with an older woman before marrying Tess, seeks and receives her forgiveness but when she relates how she was made pregnant by the unscrupulous Alec, he cannot bring himself to forgive her. There is more heartache and pain for Tess as Angel effectively abandons her.

The play, a bleak tragedy based on Hardy's long novel, is difficult to stage effectively. Newbury Dramatic Society succeeded because they had a strong and believable Tess in Jess Spath, who effectively conveyed the pain, sorrow, thwarted love and vulnerability of Hardy's central character. Her movements across stage, dialogue and facial expressions all conveyed empathy with and understanding of the tragic Tess.

A strong cast, including Keith Phillips as her father, Sarah Enticknap her mother and Luke Niemiec as Angel Clare, all played their parts with vigour and understanding. Phil Campbell was particularly good in the unsympathetic role of villain Alec.

Other notable performances were given by Dave Slade, Mike Brook, Jo Snowdon and indeed by everyone in the 21 strong cast. Accents were authentic sounding, costumes just right and everything fell into place due to skilled direction by Ann Davidson.

It is a bleak tale well told, with lessons for us all to this day, in spite of all recent 'progress'.