Triumph to close season for St Albans' Company of Ten

PUBLISHED: 10:01 08 July 2011

Mistress, Lisa White, and serving girl ,Katy Byrne

Mistress, Lisa White, and serving girl ,Katy Byrne

Archant

IT is always good to see the Company of Ten end their season on a high note - and they don't come much higher than The Day After The Fair which is currently wowing audiences in the Abbey Theatre Studio.

The adaptation of a Thomas Hardy short story which, interestingly, makes it more in tune with Hardy’s ahead-of-his-time thinking is thought-provoking, amusing and extremely well acted and directed.

It will probably – and should – play to full houses in the Studio until the end of the run on Saturday because this is the type of production at which, with the right cast and director, the Company of Ten excels.

The Day After The Fair, which Hardy wrote with young male barrister Charles Bradford at its heart, has been switched in the adaptation by Frank Harvey to focus on the ditzy young maid Anna Dunsford and her mistress Edith Harnham.

It enables the characters to elaborate on the role of women in society in the 19th Century, the social mores of the time and the impact of poverty – all subjects which Hardy developed in his best-known novels such as Tess of the D’Urbervilles and Jude the Obscure.

The performance of Lisa White as the unhappy Edith Harnham whose life changes when she starts to write love letters to Charles Bradford under the name of her maidservant Anna is a real tour de force – her apparent calm in sharp contrast with the scenes when she breaks down, full of dramatic intensity.

Katy Byrne’s Anna is the perfect foil – a naive country girl who does not understand why the letters would make a difference to Bradford’s feelings for her and his willingness to elevate her above her station.

The dialogue between the two flows with intensity and it is clear that each fulfils a need in the other.

Unusually in any production, the cast are uniformly excellent with no-one faltering in their roles. Rory Byrne gives his usual rumbustious performance as Edith’s husband Arthur and Lesley Gordon is totally believable as his kind-hearted sister Letty.

Stephen Cunningham plays Bradford, the man who finds himself at the centre of two women’s fantasies, to his usual high standard and Zoe Coxon as the other maid Sarah is a delight.

The Day After The Fair is directed by Derek Coe and it is clear from the introductory scene played out against a background of evocative music that the production is going to be something special.

Any remaining tickets can be obtained by calling the box office on 01727 857861 or go to www.abbeytheatre.org.uk

MADELEINE BURTON

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