When I go to the theatre to see a drama, I don’t want to be spoonfed a story with a realistic set that receives its own applause when the curtain is drawn; or with dozens of actors reciting one line or a hundred. This type of theatre has its place but I like to use my imagination.
Hotbuckle Productions Theatre Company have been called exquisite, superb, brilliant, marvellous, magical and similar adjectives. They allow me to use my imagination. I can’t leave it there though. I have to put in my own praise. But to start…
Way back, a couple of years short of twenty, I worked for an amateur operatic society who owned a theatre called The Palladium. It was in sore need of refurbishment. While the operatic society used it twice a year with their productions to full houses, the cinema it used to house was inactive. In my role, I tried to obtain funding from various sources to generate theatre and arts, and to refurbish the theatre. I was successful in some areas and not in others.
One company I hired went by the name of Oddsocks who performed Shakespeare outdoors using a fully enclosed wagon or a cart as the stage. Three sides came down, as far as I recall, props and boxes placed on the ground and a three dimensional set was created. A clothes rack may have been in view. They staged Twelfth Night to a small audience. They were brilliant. A few school children passed by and stopped to watch. Seeing their faces made all the stress worthwhile. I like to think that one of the children remembers the event and has a lasting love of theatre.
When I arrived at the Ramor last Friday, I was gobsmacked when I saw a cart promoting Hotbuckle Productions Theatre Company. For a while, I thought I had mistaken Oddsocks for this company.
Back to Hotbuckle. The four members are Adrian Preater, co-founder of Hotbuckle, adapts the classic novels and the company stage them. He is writer, director, musician and much more. The other three actors are Lauren Orrock, Mathew Rothwell and Ginny Lee. Outstanding all.
October in Ireland is not appropriate for outdoor performances from a wagon. Hotbuckle staged the play in the theatre with a set both useful and inventive. A signpost, a wooden farm gate and a couple of boxes were the focus; a clothes rack behind the main set but in full view enabled the actors to change. A suitcase held other equipment through which the cast made their own sound effects.
This adaptation of Far From the Madding Crowd brought a rural England from two centuries ago to life with music, humour, dialogue, tragedy, love and stagecraft. The consumate skill of just four actors made it possible for an audience to believe each of the characters they played, and they played more than one, changing their voice and demeanour as well as costumes.
I haven’t seen such a wonderful performance in many years. So, thank you Hotbuckle.
They perform in Drogheda tomorrow, and Thurles on Friday.
Going back to Oddsocks. When I went online to check out Hotbuckle I discovered they were associated with Oddsocks. And Oddsocks are still performing.
I wish I had more photographs. Neither were taken by me. They belong to the company and full credit goes to the them and the photographer. I hope they do not mind me using it. Some links below including ones where I obtained the photographs.
The Stage – “splendidly played for its social message”
remotegoat – “Assured performances, a clear narrative, humour,
inventiveness ….wit and irony all successfully captured”
BBC Radio Shropshire – “…perfect theatre with seemingly no effort at all.”
The Stage – “Pure theatre magic.” –
remotegoat – “…a unique adaptation.” –
Essential Surrey – “See it if you can…” –
Thespian Therapy – “…everything that an adaptation ought to be.”
Henley Standard -“I have rarely spent a more delightful time in the theatre…”
And that says it all.