Grass roots Silas Marner has a natural warmth
The Allesley Silas, St John's Academy, Winsford Ave, Coventry, 29 July 29-1 Aug.
By Barbara Goulden There's little time left and you may well need a woolly jumper but The Allesley Silas is a wonderful community effort largely performed by people living within two miles of St John's Academy in Winsford Avenue. Adapting the famous George Eliot novel - which playwright Alan Pollock firmly believes is based on the village of Allesley - had been a labour of love and is very much part of the Coventry 2021 City of Culture celebrations. While it's true a handful of the 21-strong cast are professional actors, several of the others could make some small claim to being descendants of the Warwickshire characters Eliot first introduced to the world in 1861. This is a charming production, full of warmth, live music and very clever puppetry. The fact that it's set in a field in an open-sided marquee just adds to the village atmosphere as tapestries unfurl from the roof, lamps are lit and fake greenery carried in. But as well as a jumper you might need an ear-trumpet as some of the sound is inevitably lost in the current weather conditions. Like most of the audience, I especially loved the puppet dog and very lively hare operated by Saul Bache, a job he successful combined with his role as Aaron Winthrop. Then there's the gentry. Angry Squire Cass (Marc Carey) and his guilt-ridden son Godfrey (Pete Ashmore) who doubles up as a violinist. Perhaps the hardest role went to Alex Allison playing both the voice and handler of the baby Eppie as she grows in size, eventually morphing into the beauitufl daughter who will transform the life of the miserable, mistrustful Silas - played with passion by Adrian Decosta - the weaver who loses all his money only to find riches beyond his wildest dreams. Alan Pollock, himself an Allesley man, is a firm believer that both The Rainbow pub, as described in Eliot's novel, and the Stone House (renamed The Red House) are strong indicators that Eliot herself, born on the nearby Arbury estate, was very familiar with his home village His play could well go on to be performed in a Coventry theatre. But it won't be the same as that draughty field. For the final few remaining tickets visit: www.Coventry2021.co.uk