The Distance – December 2015

Experience: 8/10

By Deborah Bruce

Directed by Charlotte Gwinner

Venue: Orange Tree Theatre

Date: Thursday 3rd December 2015

We missed this first time around – I forget why – so it was great to have another opportunity to catch it. We were even more delighted after seeing the performance, as this is an excellent play, which manages to be both funny and moving as well as raising issues rarely, if ever, mentioned in public, never mind on stage. A great spot by Paul Miller, the Orange Tree’s artistic director, who told us he’d been amazed that no other theatre had picked it up – their loss is the Orange Tree’s gain.

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Widowers’ Houses – January 2015

Experience: 7/10

By George Bernard Shaw

Directed by Paul Miller

Venue: Orange Tree Theatre

Date: Thursday 8th January 2015

First of the year, and it’s another good start at the Orange Tree. We learned from the post-show that this was Shaw’s first play and while it certainly isn’t his finest work, there was a lot to like. Sadly, the theme of slum landlords is still relevant today.

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Fred And Mary – January 2014

Experience: 8/10

Adapted by Geoffrey Beevers from the novel by George Eliot

Directed by Geoffrey Beevers

Venue: Orange Tree Theatre

Date: Wednesday 8th January 2014

Seasoned veterans now, we took our seats for this third part of The Middlemarch Trilogy with keen anticipation. Many in the audience were familiar to us now, as were most of the characters, though there were some new folk to get to know as well, both on stage and off. The set looked very familiar too; the yew boles were back in the left corner and there were apples in the leafy branches above. A climbing rose adorned the far corner instead of the bookcase and the furniture was set up for the Vincy’s drawing room. The props under the stools had changed, of course, and I thought I spotted a wig under one near us. We were by the far corner today, so we had another change of perspective but were still close to the action.

The play began with much the same narrated introduction as the other two – hopefully the text will be published some time – telling us about the changes that were happening around that time, the railways and so forth. Then we were in to the breakfast scene where Fred Vincy and his sister Rosamund bickered for a while before going to visit their uncle Mr Featherstone, an invalid who was expected to die soon and leave his estate to Fred. There were other relatives who were lurking in the wings, keen to see the old man’s money and lands come their way, but things didn’t work out as anyone had intended or hoped.

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The Doctor’s Story – January 2014

Experience: 8/10

Adapted by Geoffrey Beevers from the novel by George Eliot

Directed by Geoffrey Beevers

Venue: Orange Tree Theatre

Date: Tuesday 7th January 2014

This eagerly awaited second part of The Middlemarch Trilogy was just as good as the first. It wasn’t quite as funny, and the storyline might well have been harder to follow for anyone who hadn’t already seen Dorothea’s Story, but the afternoon was still very entertaining and the insights into a different set of characters were just as perceptive and witty as before. We were very relieved to learn the truth about the death of Mr Raffles – we had some concerns about the doctor’s involvement after yesterday – and the play ended just as happily, with the details of the Lydgate’s subsequent good fortune and successful marriage.

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Dorothea’s Story – January 2014

Experience: 8/10

Adapted by Geoffrey Beevers from the novel by George Eliot

Directed by Geoffrey Beevers

Venue: Orange Tree Theatre

Date: Monday 6th January 2014

This is the first part of The Middlemarch Trilogy adapted by Geoffrey Beevers from the novel by George Eliot. We’re booked for parts two and three on consecutive days, and already I’m keen to see how some of these characters develop when viewed from a fresh perspective. Today’s offering was very entertaining, with more humour than I’d expected; a TV adaptation years ago had left me with the impression that the story was dreadfully dull and the characters mostly unpleasant and uninteresting, and I’m delighted to report that that assessment was completely wrong. These characters were clearly drawn but not superficial or stereotypical; I could sympathise with many of them while still being aware of their flaws, and I certainly cared enough to want to know what happened to each of them through the twists and turns of a fairly complex plot.

This opening story concentrated on Dorothea and her unhappy marriage to Mr Casaubon, the rector of Lowick. We started off by seeing two potential suitors for Dorothea’s hand: the aforementioned Mr Casaubon and Sir James Chettam, a neighbour of Dorothea’s uncle and one of the local gentry. I don’t know if there are any other suitors in the novel, but these two worked very well to show us Dorothea’s major character flaw – a fanatical yearning for self-sacrifice in a noble cause (poor girl). Naturally with that obsession on her part, plus a reasonable amount of intelligence, she saw the decaying but intellectual Casaubon as a veritable babe magnet compared to the relatively straightforward (and much younger) country squire Sir James.

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Springs Eternal – October 2013

Experience: 7/10

By Susan Glaspell

Directed by Sam Walters

Venue: Orange Tree Theatre

Date: Saturday 19th October 2013

Not the best Susan Glaspell play we’ve seen here (like you can see them anywhere else?) but the cast were superb, and although the writing wasn’t so strong and the audience a bit unresponsive, we enjoyed our afternoon.

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Seven Year Twitch – June 2013

Experience: 8/10

Written and directed by David Lewis

Venue: Orange Tree Theatre

Date: Tuesday 4th June 2013

This is a new play, written and directed by David Lewis, and the blend of personal issues, therapy sessions and twitching created a very funny production. The story was told initially through these therapy sessions, with parts of the earlier action acted out in front of us and the relevant therapist. Later, as the relationships became more jumbled, the action flowed from one confrontation to another with frequent changes of location.

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