An inventive production of this beautiful play.
The UK premier of Michel Mark Bouchard’s play ‘Tom at the Farm’ started abruptly; the music cut off clumsily and Yann Davies started his performance with slightly less conviction than he came to have later in the play. It was a shame that the weaknesses that would mar this otherwise outstanding production reared their heads so early on. Nonetheless it would be mistake not to try and catch the final performance of this production, directed by Joe Christie, at Bedlam Theatre.
The set, designed by Iona Tangri, was the standout feature of the production. It made use of every inch of the Bedlam Theatre stage, making it appear much larger than it really is. The attention to detail was unrivalled, from the wallpaper and mounted wall lights to the wear in the chicken wire, piles of dirt on the stage and the clutter on the work surface, lending the production a much more professional appearance than most student theatre can expect attain. The costume was also totally coherent and true to the setting, thanks to the efforts of designer Laura Hounsell.
This was complimented by some fantastic tech, comprising of sound design by Huw Jones and lighting by Elissa Webb. It was a rare instance of sound being employed effectively in theatre to create atmosphere under the dialogue, although on more than one instance the dialogue was drowned out, although this was likely only a first night slip-up just like the occasional overly abrupt cuts like the one at the beginning of the play.
The script, translated from Bouchard’s original Quebec French, is beautifully balanced between moments of intense emotion and bittersweet humour which was largely carried by Davies in the role of Tom, the ad executive from the Big City. Despite his initial hesitancy, he warmed into the role throughout the play, switching nicely from Tom’s childlike internal dialogue to his loaded exchanges with the other characters. More, perhaps, could have been made of this element of the script, occasionally Davies’ pace meant that the change of mood was lost. The development of his relationship with Agatha, the bereaved mother of his lover, was particularly moving. Tilly Botsford, playing Agatha, was deeply empathetic.
There was a certain separation between the character of Francis as implied by script and the performance given by Peter Morrison; Bouchard’s writing evoked an ignorantly bitter young man, left behind in the fringes of society, not only by his own brother but by the fast- advancing world as well. Morrison, although an energetic and committed actor, never quite manages to convincingly convey the monstrous anger living inside Francis.
Christie should be proud of this feat of a production that would undoubtedly have merited five stars if it had been afforded a little extra time to mature and sharpen up.