Thomas Hardy’s novel about anindependent-minded but capricious young woman who inherits a farm, and the three very different men who fall under her spell, is an epic of the Victorian countryside.
This adaptation by Mark Healy is given a lean but effective treatment in the new stage version from English Touring Theatre, a co-production with Exeter’s Northcott Theatre.
There is a great economy in Kate Saxon’s direction, where different scenes sometimes run simultaneously and share the same space.
There is a particularly telling example early on, where the news of Bathsheba’s inheritance and Oak’s disaster – his dog drives his flock of sheep over a cliff, instantly lowering his status from independent farmer to hired man – are played side-by-side. Rebecca O’Mara is a persuasive Bathsheba, with sound support from the contrasting suitors Oak (Phil Cheadle), Boldwood (Stephen Billington) and Troy (Adam Croasdell).
The crowd scenes have vigour but their stylised movement can verge on the irritating.