CircusDanceFeaturedNorth East & YorkshirePhysical TheatreReview

Tess – York Theatre Royal

Reviewer: Fiona Georgiou Hunt

Writer: Thomas Hardy

Adaptor: Alex Harvey and Charlotte Mooney

Director: Alex Harvey and Charlotte Mooney

It’s hard to picture Thomas Hardy’s 1891 tragic novel, Tess of the d’Urbervilles, interpreted thorough contemporary circus, but Okram Razor‘s Tess is something quite extraordinary. This is a truly fresh exploration of the tragic life of Tess Durbeyfield.

As a narrative device, the use of two Tess characters is a useful choice, particularly to those unfamiliar with the story, and undoubtedly helpful for the large school audience. We have one Tess as narrator (Hanora Kamen) while the other performs (Lila Narus). This approach allows us to consider Tess as a character through the performance, while keeping clear on the plot, without diminishing the empathy we feel for her plight.

While this is ultimately a tragic tale, there is a softness to the set and costumes by Tina Bicât, almost a summery quality. Warm tones of the costumes and staging together with the use of natural materials for the set draw us into this world. The clothes washing scene was a particularly favourite as the performers’ costumes emulate the hanging garments around them, their tumbling and rolling bringing the laundry to life.

There is an unexpected pace to this piece which is meditative and reflective. While the performers leap and spin and tumble and slide, everything is considered and deliberate. The audience sits transfixed, watching the cast build pieces of the ever-changing set. It has the same meditative quality of folding origami.

The performers manage to skillfully forge a direct emotional connection through Nathan Johnston’s inventive choreography. The intense physicality is clear to see, but the elegance and precision of their movements perfectly captures both the lighter moments, such as the young girls fawning over a reading Angel, through to Angel exploding with rage upon discovering the truth of Tess’ past.

While there was an opportunity in the second half to perhaps delve further into the experiences of Tess that led her to Alec’s murder, the story didn’t feel incomplete and lacking, and the shorter second act worked well. In fact, the show could have comfortably run straight through without an interval.

Okham’s Razor’s Tess is an imaginative retelling of a classic story. Through the innovative use of aerial theatrics, this production breathes new life into this classic tale. The performance stands as a celebration of contemporary theatre’s ability to reinvent traditional stories. It is essential viewing for anyone fascinated by the fusion of classic narratives with new forms of theatre making.

Runs until Saturday 11th May, then continues to tour

The Reviews Hub Score

Fresh, Inventive, Enthralling

Show More
Photo of The Reviews Hub - Yorkshire & North East

The Reviews Hub - Yorkshire & North East

The Yorkshire & North East team is under the editorship of Jacob Bush. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button
The Reviews Hub