Review: Cold Comfort Farm at Redgrave Theatre
Cold Comfort Farm at Redgrave Theatre. Bristol Old Vic Theatre School
WHEN newspaper woman Stella Gibbons sat down in 1932 to write her light-hearted satire on the romantic rural novels of Mary Webb, Sheila Kaye-Smith, DH Lawrence and Thomas Hardy, she little imagined that this, her first novel, would become such a classic parody of their writing.
Paul Doust's stage adaptation, written nearly 60 years after the novel, as interpreted by director Christopher Scott, is a much broader look at the sophisticated Flora Poste and her remodelling of her rustic relations at Cold Comfort Farm.
Having decided to go down that path, Christopher Scott and his cast do so with admirable conviction, but in doing so also throw up some added challenges.
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The first act is almost like watching a strip cartoon unfold, each new character being painted with broader and broader brushstrokes. This is all done with such great relish that you cannot but sit back and enjoy the ride as a series of full-on characters emerge.
The problem for the audience is how to accept these same characters as they later develop into more real people.
Without an intimate knowledge of the book this would not have been easy, despite excellent work from those involved in the production.
The exception, of course, was Laura Dale's Flora, who remains constant throughout proceedings, bestriding events like an elegant puppet-master.
There were some lovely moments also from Josephine Rattigan's Aunt Ada Doom, forever bemoaning the fact the she had seen "something nasty in the wood shed", Gareth Tempest striking wonderful self-centred film star poses, Bebe Sanders pretty naive Elfine and Robbie O'Neill's Amos, a rabble-rousing preacher.
Also notable were Rennet, Urk and Ruben, three lovely rustics from Roisin Kelly, Billy Howle and Martin Bassindale.
When Flora sweeps out at the end, her mission completed, she did so with the words: "Tomorrow will be a wonderful day" and the music Tara's Theme, reminding us of a later great romantic novel which would have come within Stella Gibbons' satirical sights: Gone With The Wind.