tess cast

Picture: Kie Cummins   


Malvern Theatres (Forum)


This Ockham’s Razor production, based on Thomas Hardy’s famous novel Tess of the D’Urbervilles, is stunningly original and absorbing. This is a circus adaptation full of creative ingenuity and expressive sights, sounds and movements.

Tess, Hardy’s heroine, is a simple and uneducated country girl who is exploited and abused by a male of higher class and sophistication. This precipitates a life of seemingly fated misfortunes resulting tragically in her life falling apart. Hardy explores these themes in his writing: class, gender, coincidence and fatalism.

This production is guided by a narrator who is like an embodiment of Tess and helps to provide the narrative. The ensemble cast of seven actors/performers, five females and two males, interpret the narrative and the characters in highly expressive dance, gymnastic and acrobatic movement – the world of circus.

As with mime, the lack of speech by the actors absorbs the attention of the audience in working out what each movement and gesture signifies. In demanding more of the audience, it creates an intense and highly dramatic atmosphere.

The performance is complemented by excellent and atmospheric sound effects – the wind, the birds, the bells – by varied, atmosphere-defining music, by lighting effects, and by projections on the backcloth which reflect the seasons, the locations and the themes.

Furthermore, the intensity and the romance is lightened by moments and elements of humour – the scene when milking the cows was brilliantly portrayed with clever use of props, Angel carrying the girls over the stream and such scenes are quite comical.

Clearly the performers including Macadie Amoroso, Joshua Fraser, Nat Whittingham and the others were fully involved with the directors Alex Harvey and Charlotte Mooney in developing this show as well as performing within it.

Macadie Amoroso as Tess in particular was outstanding in her characterisation and physicality - her final scene was powerful and moving. Nat Whittingham as Angel was likewise excellent. His reaction to Tess’ confession after their marriage was a truly powerful interpretation of his anguish – tortured movements and contortions. Joshua Fraser’s movement with the hoop in the first act was excellent.

The costumes provided another excellent element in the performance, as was the work of the designers. The planks, the shapes they created, were all very creative and absorbing. At times the narrative was not being progressed while we were focused on watching the cast assemble and disassemble elements of the design.

This is a highly innovative interpretation of a sad story with serious and relevant themes. Inevitably there is a large team involved in such a complex production. Tina Bicât’s design work helps achieve a cohesiveness with all the performers, directors and creative team which is outstanding . It is well worth getting to see this team in action wherever they are performing in the coming months.

Tim Crow


Tess will return to the Midlands at Coventry Belgrade, Weds 10th & Thu 11th April 2024

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