Based on Thomas Hardy’s novel, Far From the Madding Crowd is the story of Bathsheba Everdene who, after inheriting her uncle’s farm, finds herself a mistress in a man’s world. This production, adapted for the English Touring Theatre, tells the story vividly using an ensemble staging and live folk music.
‘The cast of thirteen rise to the challenge of this very physical production and capture the essence of Hardy's characters as we move through the story of Bathsheba Everdene's turbulent life as she struggles to asset her independence in a man's world.’
British Theatre Guide
‘Their latest production, a new adaptation of another of Hardy's finest works, is everything the trudging TV mini series isn't - shocking, fast paced and, above all, completely gripping.’
The Cambridge News
Far from the Madding Crowd brought Thomas Hardy major success as a writer, and gave us capricious, ballsy Bathsheba Everdene, his first great heroine. But for theatrical treatment, the novel poses several challenges. No matter how strikingly modern Everdene remains, this is a lengthy novel with a warm-hearted depiction of rural life that makes The Archers look downright edgy. It also features scenes (raging fires; farm-ruining storms; sheep potentially fatally bloated on clover) that are tricky to realise on stage.
Cut through these and focus on Hardy's storytelling, as English Touring Theatre does here under Kate Saxon's direction, and you have a dynamic drama on universal themes. Libby Watson's set, an open wooden frame that allows action to unfold in fluid zones, lends the proceedings an organic interconnectedness. And the juxtaposition of pairs of scenes - Gabriel Oak losing his farm; Everdene inheriting hers - gives the adaptation much-needed pace early on. Later, as the novel sweeps into tragedy, the pace slows and lingers on haunting, symbolic moments, with brooding dances of desire and regret.
Rebecca O'Mara delivers a passionate Everdene with an Irish accent and long auburn tresses, and in smouldering scenes with Sergeant Troy (Adam Croasdell, looking very Clark Gable) there is more than a hint of Gone With the Wind. The accent announces her difference as loudly as Troy's red blazer screams danger in a world where everyone else is in green and brown. But Phil Cheadle, as dependable, sturdy Oak, is the quiet star here, giving the story its solid centre and moral axis. We need him to balance Everdene's impetuous restlessness and to bring mirth into a tale that takes us, for all the bucolic charm and cheer, to dark places.