Wednesday, August 10

The Allesley Silas – Belgrade Theatre Coventry

Originally performed in a circus marquee in Allesley as part of the Coventry City of Culture 2021, The Allesley Silas has a short run at the Belgrade Theatre.

This production is a version of the George Eliot’s novel Silas Marner. It plays heavily on the local connection, the setting of Raveloe is actually Allesley and the Rainbow pub features many times in the story.

Continuing the local feel, the play was devised by a production team that has connections to the area. It features professional actors alongside local community performers.

Silas Marner lives in Raveloe, mixing as little as possible with the locals. This raises questions as to why and what he does. When he is robbed people’s opinions start to change. Everything is turned around even more for Marner when an orphan comes into his life. What will this do to the loner and village around him?

The company is large with 18 members, many of whom double up to cover all of the characters. They also enhance the atmosphere as they surround the audience singing and chanting with some of the company also accompanying the action playing musical instruments. Puppets, of a similar style used in Warhorse, are also used throughout the play to great effect. The best example of this is with the orphan Eppie who grows from 2 years old to an adult during the story.

In addition to all of this the cast act as stage crew, altering the simple set pieces by adding poles and decorations or flipping lids to create a garden. Although simple, the set with a symbolic small house and multi-functional crates, conveys a large manor house, a stone pit, the Rainbow pub and other locations perfectly. This is due to the creativity of the set and the lighting which helps to define the different scenes.

Every cast member brings something different to the stage, the professionals and community players working as one to bring the story to life. Adrian Decosta portrays the tortured soul of Silas Marner perfectly, you can not only see his pain but the transformation in the character through the story. Eppie starts as a puppet being brought to life by Alex Allison who then becomes the character herself. It’s not easy playing the range of ages shown in the piece but Allison captures the aspects beautifully as she goes from crying toddler to young woman. The story is narrated throughout by Jill Dowse sometimes with an accordion, her manner is calming but engaging as she leads you through the tale. Also noteworthy is the down to earth motherly figure of Dolly played by Charlie Lewis, rouge Dunsy by John Bennell and the poise and elegance of Nancy by Amy Kakoura.

The Allesley Silas is a creative and very enjoyable telling of a classic story. This performance would be a perfect introduction to the writing of George Eliot for young and old alike. The audience feels a connection with the story set a few miles down the road. It is a story of right prevailing over wrong but in a warm and heartfelt way that brings a smile to your face. An enjoyable evening’s entertainment.

Runs until 30th July 2022 Tickets available from https://www.belgrade.co.uk/events/the-allesley-silas/

Reviewer: Annette Nuttall

Reviewed: 26th July 2022

North West End UK Rating: ★★★★

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