Reviewed by Dave Smith
There were many things to admire about Rob Croser’s production of the Australian premiere of this adaptation of Hardy’s novel. For a start it looked wonderful. The multi-level skeletal set, designed by Rob Croser and David Roach, was striking and functional while the costumes and ensemble action genuinely evoked the era. The transitions between scenes were well conceived and provided a fluency to the production. Often the action was accompanied by actor/violinist William Jarman who set the mood with authentic rustic musical flair.
Alicia Zorkovic excelled as Bathsheba. She had the right combination of naivety and wilfulness and brought a wide dramatic range to the character. Of her suitors, Charles Mayer as farmer Boldwood was the strongest. He showed genuine confusion about his new-found feelings for Bathsheba. He had a magnetic presence and gave her every reason to agree to marry him.
Fahad Farooque as the self-seeking and opportunistic womaniser Sergeant Frank Troy, and Shedrick Yarkpai as the solid and true Gabriel Oak, were convincing to a degree. Shedrick’s Oak was positive, genial and forgiving, but didn’t achieve the character’s necessary emotional strength. The contrast between the two men was, however, well drawn.
Mark Healy’s stage adaptation of the lengthy novel was somewhat ham-fisted. It was problematic to the extent that the many actions had by necessity to be contracted, sometimes hurriedly, into the action. The original story is melodramatic and this script certainly conveyed that, at times even to the point of bathos.