Wednesday, 4 June 2008

Cold Comfort Farm on stage

I mentioned Stella Gibbons and Cold Comfort Farm here in 2006: see Beyond the woodshed.

This evening we went to Cold Comfort Farm, Paul Doust's stage adaptation, at the Exeter Northcott. Mixed impressions, really. The acting and production values were of high standard, and there some very clever set pieces (for instance, using a human tableau to create the effect of cattle on stage) but the text of the adaptation was rather strange. It didn't come across as terribly affectionate toward the source material, with silly slapstick additions such as a repeatedly exploding clock - thankfully, if peculiarly, also done by human tableau, rather than a prop that "explodes" as the playscript specifies - and Rennet portrayed as a lunatic sleepwalker. It was also full of self-referential comments on its own theatricality, and occasionally completely lost track of the comic nature of the story (in one symbolic scene, the whole cast stood entwined by tendrils, chanting in unison the words of the controlling Aunt Ada Doom). And it cut out Mrs Beetle and Mr Mybug. Overall worth seeing, but probably not if you expect a 'straight' adaptation like those of the 1968 and 1995 TV versions.

If you've never read the original novel and want to try it for flavour (Roger Ebert describes it well as "like Thomas Hardy rewritten by P.G. Wodehouse") you can preview it at Google Books. As I mentioned previously, there's an extended article on the book's origins at the now-defunct official Stella Gibbons website - see Cold Comfort Farm at the Internet Archive.

Addendum: more on this at Further beyond the woodshed.
- Ray

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