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Precious Bane
by Mary Webb, adapted by Bryony Lavery

Welford Park, Newbury, 31st July 2003 to 3rd August 2003
Eves 7.15 p.m., gates open 6.00 p.m. (Sunday 5.00 p.m.)
Runs 2 hours 5 minutes: One Interval
Tickets 01635 46044: www.pentabus-theatre.co.uk
Review Mark Courtice: 31st July 2003

Location, location, location. Shropshire melodrama looks good in leafy Berkshire.

Not having to worry about burning the theatre down means working in the open air offers the pyrotechnicians great scope. The team behind this adaptation of Mary Webb's Shropshire melodrama have taken this to heart, with lots of special effects, and a sharp eye to making the most of the lovely surroundings of one of Berkshire's stately homes.

Farmer's son Gideon is a socially mobile swine who will sacrifice anything, including his sister Prudence, to make money and buy that house in Lullingford. Prudence is a lovely person with a very tidy figure and a hare lip. Will she find happiness, and will he get his come-uppance?

A crowd in mob caps and shawls turn up and the heart sinks. Actually they are the Mere Singers, a local community choir specially brought together for each area's performances. Here in Newbury they tackle Mary Keith's attractive and clever score with energy and skill.

They launch a production that transcends the old stuff of the plot with vibrant theatricality, well organised stage craft, and a clear sense of narrative drive.
The effects are beguiling, the presentation skilful, and the setting well used; but all this only works because the acting lives up to the rest - we are moved when we are meant to be, caring about the love story.

This is a company at ease with physical theatre, so their work on a dog fight is enthralling; a recurring motif of sending letters is elegant, witty and looks terrific. Across the whole company, actors take up roles with the same ease as they change the (always apt) costumes, but never forget to create real characters.

This show is good fun. A couple of tips:- check out the helpful web site (www.pentabus-theatre.co.uk) for details of the venue; do take a cushion so you can sit on the ground (you will then be in the middle of the action as the actors thread their way around you); do dress up warmly, as it gets cold by 9.00 p.m., and keep your eyes open - this is an often surprising evening.


Prudence Sarn : Emma Pallant
Tivvy Sexton: Kaz Luckins
Gideon Sarn: Gwilym Havard Davies
Mother Sarn: Julia Munrow
Jancis Beguildy: Eve Dallas
Missis Beguildy: Maggie O'Brien
Wizard Beguildy: Alex Jones
Kester Woodseaves: Robert Cameron


Director: Teresa Heskins
Designer: Kate Bunce
Composer: Mary Keith
Lighting: Charles Balfour
Musical Director (Berkshire): Jo Sercombe
 
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