Belgrade Theatre review: The Allesley Silas
The Allesley Silas, Belgrade Theatre, until July 30.
By Steve Chilton
Those expecting a cosy retelling of George Eliot’s morality tale, Silas Marner, had better brace themselves.
Ideally with a flagon of ale at the Rainbow pub in Allesley, which fans of the novelist, born near Nuneaton but schooled in Coventry, believed to be the real-life setting for her most popular work.
There's no maybe about it in this sizzling production by Coventry-based From the Heart Theatre.
Liberties are there to be taken, and take them they have.
From the chorus line opening, to crowd pleasing gags like Eppie's quip to Silas on arriving in a drab northern town: "It makes Coventry look like paradise."
And yet the story runs true to the original and the essence of Eliot's themes are realised.
It's a tale rich in melodrama, particularly baby Ellie's crawl through a Christmas snowstorm to reach Silas's cottage, as her mother lay dying.
Even Eliot's most ardent fans would admit to it being a tad over the top. In this stage version however, the scene was amongst the most moving and credible.
Another surprise is the role of Eppie, played from toddler to teenager by the same actress (Alex Allison). To reveal how it's done would be an unforgivable spoiler, but suffice to say it's a triumph.
So too is Adrian Decosta's portrayal of Marner, the skilled weaver driven from "somewhere up north" by accusations of pilfering money from his chapel and settling in Raveloe (Allesley, if you are a believer).
However to single out one player would be an injustice to the large cast, an ensemble whose singing-dancing, back-slapping bonhomie fuel the feel good factor.
Would Eliot approve? Perhaps, if she'd had a ale or two at the Rainbow first.
Photo Dylan Parrin