Tess, a Gift Horse Theatre Production – Review


On Friday evening I got the pleasure of seeing Tess, a play based on the book Tess of the d’Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy. Signe Lury adapted it into a play.

It’s not often you come across this much talent in a group of 18-22 year olds. They did a really great job. The actors all were genuinely good and the entire play was accompanied by the band which made it even better. The theatre production house is Gift Horse Theatre. Tess is their debut. At the moment they’re looking into different locations for Tess, but they’re already discussing options for new plays.

The performance itself, was outside in the Rose Garden in Trinity College. There were blankets laid out on the grass and a couple of benches for people who reserved a seat. There were a couple of bees and even a pretty little bird who joined in to watch at one point. Though I think the bird was more interested in the bush with the berries than the actual performance. How rude of him. We were lucky that it didn’t start raining again the entire evening. Because around noon it had been pouring.

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“So much of the discussion around the novel is whether or not it is a feminist story. I wanted to make that debate, and by using the three different storytellers who all give a different opinion on what is happening helps with that”, said Signe Lury.

The storytellers added commentary to things that happen in the play and though sometimes it feels like they’re taking you out of the story. It’s actually good, because sometimes we tend to dive in a story without thinking about how some actions shouldn’t be normalized. But when you’re in the tale, they might feel normal. The storytellers helped move the story along and definitely helped with the harsher and more tragic moments.

In the original book, Tess gets raped by Alec. It’s not exactly an easy moment in the story and so I was genuinely curious how they would portray that without glorifying the violence. In this scene, Tess and Alec started a dance, mainly with their hands and arms. Alec forcing closeness upon the two, while Tess pushed the arms away until her resolve leaves her and she gives up, falling to her knees. The rest of the cast do the dance as well. With the accompanying music it becomes quite a chilling moment. The choreography for the dance was made by Doris de Vries. I thought it was a great way to tell something, without using words.

On an easier note, the props used for the performance were hilarious. There was a colourful yak made with wool which was supposed to be a cow. And then there were several chickens on sticks as well. The chickens were accompanied by an egg with chicken legs and it cracked up the entire audience.

On their Facebook page it says that they are environmentally-conscious theatre. I was intrigued so Signe explained: “I was quite conscious on moving towards environmentally-conscious theatre. We had to take various steps. We did loads of research on eco-paper for the flyers and posters. Though we didn’t get any response in time so we ended up just printing fewer. The costumes are all sustainably and ethically sourced. That was very important for me. With the props as well, we made sure we didn’t buy in too much.”

Overall, I genuinely enjoyed this performance. I think it was really well done and will be on the lookout for their next plays. Make sure to bring a blanket if you decide to go because towards the end of the evening it gets quite chilly. They’re playing until Sunday evening (the 19th). I would really recommend you go because it might be one of the best ways to be introduced to a literary classic without actually having to read the book which is 592 pages long. And you also get to support an upcoming theatre house filled with talent, I mean what else do you need?

To read more about Tess of the d’Urbervilles, click here.

To buy tickets for the play.





Globetrotter, writer, foodie and coffee addict.

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