Shared Experience, Gone to Earth

Review in Issue 16-2 | Summer 2004

Written in 1916 at the height – or should that be depth – of the First World War, Gone to Earth is a very strange novel, from a fairly strange author – Mary Webb, who remained neglected until after her death. Imagine a lyrical, feminine, sensitive version of Thomas Hardy.

Shared Experience take one of her more poetic and allegorical novels and turn it into a gripping and intelligent piece of theatre. It’s a fairly slight plot – hypersensitive country girl wooed by un-sensual clergyman and sensual blackguard squire. But from the first scene, where Hazel Woodus runs screaming from her father who is slaughtering the pig, Shared Experience run both melodrama and allegory seamlessly together. The squire finds her by the side of the road, while the stamping of shoes by the cast at the back of the stage evokes both horses’ hoofs and the tramping of fate.

Throughout the performance, the rest of the cast is behind wide, wrought iron grilles (that the actors wind in and out of to exit or enter) and their stamped foot chorus underpins and supports the action on the fairly minimal front of stage. Shared Experience go far beyond retelling of the story – they add texture, depth and shading, the result of strong improvisation and physical skills well integrated with the more naturalistic dialogue. It does make a difference that the cast were sharp and confident in their movements, clear and resonant in dialogue, and very comfortable moving from tableau to action. This is where they succeed so well, using song, dance and movement, taking opportunities from the book itself and melding it all together into a satisfying piece of theatre.

Presenting Artists
Presenting Venue
Date Seen
  1. Mar 2004

This article in the magazine

Issue 16-2
p. 27