Performed by the second year actors from the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School, this wasproduction toured many venues mainly in the West Country.
The epic story of love, loyalty and Victoria values stirred audiences wherever it was performed. I took the decision to cast three Tess's in the title role, signifying the three very different stages of her life and development. We chose a very fluid, theatrical style to tell the story and keep the momentum going until its' heart-rending ending.
… is there a danger in adapting treasured classics for the stage, especially ones with such breadth of wide-open space, as Hardy’s books? If there is, it’s one which is swiftly overcome by Suzy Catliff’s sensuous, simple production, with its Greek-style chorus who come together as an ever present mass of storytellers, reminding us of the fiction we are occupying. With all sound effects, music and settings, created live onstage, this piece opens up a small, designated white-ish staging space into a dairy farm, a dilapidated mansion, even a threshing machine….
The most striking feature of the piece is that there are three Tesses, representing different stages of the young woman’s life…as well as providing a shared experience of womanhood, rooted in the likelihood that it could have happened to more than one woman back in Hardy’s day…
…There isn’t a standout member of this ensemble cast. They work harmoniously together, coming in and out of their various central and supporting characters to form a chorus that frames the action with its looming presence, even the most intimate scenes…
It’s a combination of factors, creative staging, thoughtful casting and subtle effects that make this production the success that it is. It’s hard to come to stage adaptations of beloved novels with an open heart, but even the most die-hard Hardy purists will surely have theirs prised open by such a sensitive, honest piece.
(From the British Theatre Guide)
…You would not normally expect to be excited and uplifted by a stage adaptation of Thomas Hardy’s dark novel of cruel fate and social injustice yet this production by Bristol Old Vic Theatre School is just about as stimulating as theatre ever gets….a visually electrifying production that is full of innovative ideas.…Suzy Catliff’s direction skilfully takes the audience along Tess’s journey from artless girl to worldly woman, manipulated by the men in her life with Hardy’s rustic prose creating a vibrant atmosphere in an energetic and youthful staging of his masterpiece.
(From The Dorset Echo)