Mill Arts Centre, Banbury, July 2012
Banbury Cross Players’ most ambitious production for some years was unable to sell many tickets for its final performance on Saturday, which is a great pity, because it has style, precise staging, well-drilled actors, and during the inexorable ride towards its denouement, good pace.
It is a bold choice, bravely and unconventionally directed by Linda Shaw, using a stark, simple set, and making huge demands on its five actors, who have to stay on stage throughout the performance. Thornton’s adaptation has theatricality in every dynamic scene and the strong narrative line is well handled by the ensemble. Moments of sharp contrast, as storyline turns to action, are not always as quickly embraced as they should be, and often the lighting is a little too subtle and slow to support the pace that the script demands, but strong performances from all cast members help to get the story across.
The first half of the evening lacked drive as the story and characters were carefully laid out in front of us, sometimes at the expense of the drama unfolding, but after the interval the tragic journey of all these people was vividly embraced by this spirited group, as was the muscular style of the writing.
Graham MacDonnell has weight and presence as Heathcliff, but his journey from bullied little boy into villainous megalomaniac was not clearly defined, and he often burst into a rage for no apparent reason; his inner life and thoughts needed clarity. Tara Lacey had a big responsibility, and her Cathy and Catherine were clearly and articulately drawn, though I longed for more passion, sensuality, and vivacity. Fine, solid support came from the other three cast members, and there was a strong sense of a company of actors, all working hard and unselfishly for each other.
Production values were, as usual with this group, very high, with great attention to detail and a feeling of professionalism throughout the evening, from front of house efficiency and warmth through to music choices and lighting effects. This was a courageous choice by a talented company and a fine, faithful production of an ambitious script. They deserved, and deserve, much greater attendance from the good folk of Banbury.