Peacock Theatre and UK Tour
31st Jan to 3rd Feb 2024
“Ockham’s Razor have announced the West End run of their bold new vision of Hardy’s classic novel, Tess of the D’Urbervilles. From Wednesday 31st January to Saturday 3rd February 2024, Tess will be performed at Sadler’s Wells’ Peacock Theatre. Hardy’s classic novel still has extraordinary relevance for contemporary audiences as it explores questions of privilege, class, consent, agency, female desire and sisterhood.
Tess uses the original text combined with the physical language of circus, allowing the performers to retell the well-known story of power, loss and endurance through a feminist lens. Tess is Ockham’s Razor’s first production based on a novel, capturing the poetry of Hardy and the philosophical depth of the novel, interweaving Ockham’s Razor’s signature physical storytelling to tell this gut-wrenching story about the strength to endure.
Tess features an ensemble of circus performers, five women and two men, from diverse backgrounds who will weave together acrobatics, aerial, dance and physical theatre. The distinctive simple, evocative design of Ockham’s Razor will evoke the physical labour of the novel and create Hardy’s Wessex onstage, wielding wooden planks, shifting walls, ropes and swathes of linen to make sets that unfold and which the cast balance upon, climb, carry and construct. The company has a long experience of working with reframing the female body with circus, looking at strength, capability and agency.”
Review by Richard Lambert, 2 Stars
Re-invigorating a Thomas Hardy novel by adding dance and circus sounds like a great idea. Why not inject some life into an otherwise drab literary classic?
Sadly though, the dance elements were few and far between and the circus element was sadly lacking.
Relying on a few planks of wood to carry around, climb and slide down was interesting for the 1st dozen or so times but then became over-used, repetitive and not especially awesome. Similarly with the set washing lines pulled out to drap across the stage – great the 1st time but then why repeat? So much repetition that the 1st half felt like 15 minutes of content stretched and repeated to a mind-numbing 80 minutes.
The lighting package had no side light and very little front light was used. Nearly everything was dark and in silhouette – compounded by a bewildering array of video content that was relentless and indecipherable. The faces unlit, even the narrator’s face unlit, and despite some nice silhouettes, the production was very hard to see, follow and extremely tiring for the eyes.
The performers wore country milk-maid dresses, leather boots and had long tangled matted hair which had to constantly be pushed back behind the ears or swept back from landing across their faces. Even one of the male performers had long hair that had to be constantly adjusted and fiddled with cos it was getting in the way. Some hair grips or even hair product could have gone a long way to ease this annoying distraction.
The show design decided not to use side black masking which meant that the rather modern fire extinguisher on the back wall was visible within the Wessex homestead. And all the prop and set pieces could be seen walked on and off and remained at the sides of the stage. It did feel like someone dropped all the pieces into the room and the cast were left to devise something themselves without much guidance from the creative team. There was a Cyr wheel and standing on each others’ shoulders 2-person high, but nothing that hasn’t been done a million times over in circus and done better in Spiegeltents and festival fringe venues.
A rather disappointing re-imagining of a simple classic story.
Adaptation Alex Harvey and Charlotte Mooney, Ockham’s Razor
Directors Alex Harvey and Charlotte Mooney, Ockham’s Razor
Producer Alison King, Turtle Key Arts
Choreography Nathan Johnston
Composition, Sound Design
and Production Holly Khan
Design & Equipment Concept Ockham’s Razor in association with Tina Bicât
Set and Costume Design Tina Bicât
Lighting Design Aideen Malone
Projection Design Daniel Denton
Script Advisor Anne-Marie Casey
Malvern Theatre, Malvern Monday 13th – Tuesday 14th November 2023
Cornerstone, Didcot Wednesday 29th November 2023
Traverse, Edinburgh Wednesday 7th and 8th February 2024
The Lowry, Salford Quays Wednesday 14th – Saturday 17th February 2024
Lighthouse Poole Wednesday 21st February 2024
Exeter Northcott Monday 11th and Tuesday 12th March
artsdepot, North Finchley Wednesday 20th and Thursday 21st March 2024
Oxford Playhouse Tuesday 26th March 2024
Belgrade, Coventry Wednesday 10th and 11th April 2024
York Theatre Royal Tuesday 16th and Wednesday 17th April 2024
New Theatre Royal Portsmouth Tuesday 30th April and Wednesday 1st May 2024
Worthing Theatres Wednesday 15th – Friday 17th May 2024
Salisbury Playhouse Wednesday 5th June 2024