Don't Miss Tess of the d'Urbervilles at The Questors

A highly professional production in the Judy Dench Playhouse


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I realise I don't go to The Questors nearly enough, it's Ealing's local theatre and there's always a great variety of shows on offer, so should support it more.

When I do visit I am rarely disappointed and always marvel at the idea that this is in any way amateur.

Last night's production in The Judy Dench Playhouse of 'Tess of the d'Urbervilles' is certainly worthy of any West End theatre, with an exceptionally strong ensemble and mesmorising leading lady.

(Ella Hooper as Tess, image Jane Arnold-Forster)

Tess, is of course, Thomas Hardy's masterpiece novel, one which deals with issues as relevant today as they were in 19th century rural Wessex; inequality, sexual abuse, injustice, hypocrisy and double standards.  It's Hardy's story of young Tess Durbeyfield, used and abused in a society that treats women with contempt.

Turning Hardy's great work into a stage show is no mean feat and Questors regulars, Mike Langridge and Caroline Bleakley, must be congratulated for creating a highly sensitive and inventive production which captures the essence of the novel entirely.

The cast are all, without exception, individually excellent, but together form a wonderful cohesive team - doubling up in many other roles (including animals!)

Ultimately though, this is Tess' story and the very talented Ella Hooper plays the novel's heroine with star quality. She's on stage for most of the scenes and absolutely inhabits this character. We feel her anger, betrayal and total despair and is totally captivating throughout this tragic love story. Remember Ella's name as, mark my words this (so far) 'unknown' young actress won't be unknown for too much longer.

Technically the staging was simple but pitch perfect. Both the lighting and sound transported us highly effectively to rural Wessex and overall the atmosphere in this generally dark and foreboding story was spot on.

The choreography - devised by the company and interwoven throughout - was seamless, and a testimony to how well all these actors worked together.

It's a lengthy production (2 hours 35mins) as befits Hardy's 150,000 words, but one that manages to totally engage the audience throughout.

There were many times throughout this show I had to remind myself that this was apparently an amateur production. The enthusiastic standing ovation at the end proved however that I am not alone in my opinion that it's a truly remarkable, highly professional adaptation of ultimately, a great story.

We are very lucky to have something of this high standard at The Questors, I urge you all to book now and go and see it asap!

Annemarie Flanagan

Tess of the d'Urbervilles continues until 5 May

April 29th 2018

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